Wednesday, August 18, 2010, 8:47 AM

"X-frame" Chair Design Not Protected Trade Dress

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled August 11, 2010 that Greenwich Industries, LP's "x-frame" folding chair design was functional and thus ineligible for protection even as a common law trademark.

The case began in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The district court invalidated Greenwich's registered trade dress rights upon the request of competitor Specialized Seating, Inc in a declaratory judgment action filed in 2005. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's holding that the x-frame construction was designed to optimize the chair's strength-to-weight ratio, rather than create a distinctive appearance that would help consumers distinguish it from similar brands. The appellate court held that "[i]t looks the way it does in order to be a better chair, not in order to be a better way of identifying who made it." In addition to its functionality argument, Specialized argued that Greenwich withheld as many as four expired patents covering the x-frame design from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office thereby misrepresenting that its design was not functional.

The case is Specialized Seating, Inc. v. Greenwich Industries LP, case number 07-1435, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The Seventh Circuit's decision may found by clicking here.

Greenwich's registered trade dress (now invalid):





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