Product packaging sets business products apart from competitors and makes it easy for consumers to recognize the brand. Consumers associate a brand with its look and feel and packaging, they can ignore the name or logo for a while but not the packaging. Product packaging is something that a customer sees first while buying a product.
It may take several years and the efforts of businesses to design unique and different packaging for their products. And maybe in terms of size, shape, design, color, or any other visual feature of the product.
An important to protect all hard work, investment, money and time a brand invests in designing unique packaging. Therefore, it becomes important to protect your brand’s packaging. There are numerous ways to protect the look of a product using intellectual property (IP) laws.
So, how can you protect the product packaging using distinct intellectual property laws?
Trademarks are best in protecting trade dress i.e. different aspects of packaging such as size, shape, color, design, texture, graphics or certain features which set the product apart from others.
Trade dress comprises of all aspects of packaging that depict the overall appearance of the product. Apart from the appearance of the product, it helps in identifying the source of the product. How the product looks are protected under trademarks as it plays a very significant role in the minds of consumers.
Protecting your trade dress under trademarks will keep infringers away from copying your trade dress. Registering a trade dress or shape of a product as a trademark requires consideration of certain factors such as the distinctiveness of the trade dress i.e. it should be unique and not common.
It should not have any functionality. The trade dress should be capable of creating a brand value in the minds of customers.
The best example of a distinctive trade dress is the Coke bottle and Pepsi ball design which sets apart both even though both are from the same beverage industry.
In India, trademarks are registered under the TradeMarksAct, 1999, and provide the owner with the right to use “R” symbol on the products and sue for any infringement.
Although copyright protects the creative or artistic or literary works of the author, sometimes it protects the product packaging. The trade dress to get protected under copyright law must contain a degree of creativity. Common shapes/ designs are not the subject matter of copyright but any imperfect arrangement of shapes in any pattern is eligible for copyright protection. Copyright registration is available for any specific drawing or design on the packaging but not in the idea behind that design. Another point to keep in mind is that copyright protects art and literature. Therefore, a product packaging to get protection under copyrights must-have elements of artistic work.. Be it in form of graphic or pictorial creative or any text as literary work. Do consult copyright lawyers for understanding and filing applications under relevant law.
Design registration is issued for the aesthetic, attractive, or ornamental features of a product or its packaging. A design registration protects the ornamental features which are part of the whole product i.e. they cannot be separated from the product.
Another consideration for filing an application for design registration is that the said packaging or product shape must be new and original. Therefore, the uniqueness and visual appearance of the product or packaging make the same eligible for design registration.
To sum it up, go for a trade dress/design protection if your packaging is visually different from others and makes an impression in the minds of the consumers about the brand.