Before taking an intellectual property (IP) course this past fall, I assumed trademarks only applied to brand slogans. I did not realize that trademarks could apply to physical products, too.
Now that I have taken various IP courses and participated in the IP Moot Court team, I see trademark protection everywhere. This made me wonder: can a commonplace item, like an applicator for a tampon, receive trade dress protection?
Before jumping into that answer, let’s first explain what a trade dress is.
I love board games and have been playing a lot of Settlers of Catan online during the pandemic. I use a site called colonist.io, which is an offshoot, unaffiliated version of the Settlers of Catan game. During my Intellectual Property (IP) class with Professor Ho earlier this year, I wondered how IP rights extend to board games. When we tend to think of IP, we might think of cool technological inventions for patents or Disney’s Mickey Mouse for copyright. IP generally relates to protecting human created products, names, and expressions, and can give its owner rights to protect these.