Chippendales Cuffs and Collar Denied Trademark Protection
It seems we have a double standard operating in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but maybe not in the way one might think. The USPTO in all its wisdom, has granted trademark protection to everyone's favorite repeat offender, Paris Hilton and her customized phrase, "That's hot." So simple, and yet speaking volumes about ... everything. And yet, despite the genericity of that phrase, (new way to use that word, do you think it is worthy of a TM?), the USPTO went ahead and trademarked it. However, they have declined to assist fellow hotties the Chippendales dancers in their quest to have their ubiquitous "cuffs and collar" costume trademarked.
As Reuters has reported, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld the denial of trademark to Chippendales by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The original trademark application was made in 2000, and claimed that the cuffs and collar were distinctive enough to merit the protection. The court disagreed.
The court agreed with the decision of the Board that the cuffs and collar mark Chippendales was seeking was just too similar to that of the Playboy Bunny. Bunnies please note, were protected by trademark from 1964, until it expired in 2004.
One educational part of the opinion was the court's finding, including a helpful sketch of a Chippendales dancer in full array, (that has got to be a first) that the Board was wrong in its interpretation of why the cuffs and collar were not distinctive enough to warrant a trademark. The Board argued that the cuffs and collar were just like any other old stripper costume (doctor, cowboy, construction worker) ho, hum, and thus not distinctive.
No, no said the court of appeals, just because everyone wears a costume is not the correct reason Chippendales will be left out in the cold with no protection. The simple fact is that the cuffs and collar are too much like the Bunny outfit, the admitted inspiration. Now that is a problem. However much you may feel that the Bunny outfit is really all about the ears, it is just too close for the comfort of the court of appeals. Better luck next time Chippers.
- In Re Chippendales USA, Inc. (USCourts.gov)
- Trademarks Basics FAQ (FindLaw)
- IHOP Lawsuit: Pancakes v. Church Over Trademark Infringement (FindLaw's Legal Grounds)
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