Whatever happened to actually competing in the market place? Copycense points us to a recent legal battle between Dixie and Huhtamaki over the design of their disposable coffee cups. Seriously. Dixie claimed that Huhtamaki violated its trade dress because its cups, like Dixie’s, included a white band at the bottom of the cup. After two years in court, the judge, thankfully, didn’t see what the big deal was over both cups having a white strip at the bottom and ruled against Dixie. In part, the judge noted, Dixie never proved that the white strip was non-functional, which is important, since trade dress is supposed to be for non-functional design elements:
Dixie even provided alternative designs for Huhtamaki to adopt to differentiate its cup from Dixie’s, according to the judge’s order.
“Because Huhtamaki would either incur additional costs or sacrifice design quality if it were forced to adopt one of Dixie’s alternative designs, the court finds that the product feature in question is functional under the traditional test.”
Still, just the fact that lawsuits like this even exist in the first place shows how far gone these things have gone. It’s as if every company feels entitled to having no competition whatsoever, and will sue anyone who offers anything remotely similar. What a sad state of affairs.