Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
cups, trade dress, white stripe

Companies:
dixie, huhtamaki



Legal Fight Over Design Of Disposable Coffee Cups

from the is-no-competition-allowed? dept

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.

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  1. identicon
    Mr Fnortner, 20 Mar 2010 @ 10:08pm

    Capitalism

    Don't confuse this with capitalism. This is mercantilism or government protectionism. The only possible way for this problem to exist is for the practice to be protected by government sanction. The Constitution is one source of this protection--and sadly this is one place where Madison and the founders got it wrong. Intellectual property is not property and should never have been protected. Business people sit on their butts and fend off competition with lawsuits rather than fight it out in the marketplace only because the government collaborates with them in this endeavor by offering them cover for this practice. This is a shameful use of coercive powers.

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