Today in Trademark History: 3/1

One of the many commonly misunderstood aspects of U.S. trademark law is that nearly anything that serves (1) as an indicator of the source of particular goods or services, and (2) to distinguish the goods or services of one seller from another, can function as a trademark.  Thus, trademarks are not limited to words or logos, but can also extend to non-traditional marks such as product appearances (trade dress) packaging configurations, sounds, and even smells.  One prime example of such a non-traditional mark was first registered on this date twenty-nine years ago, when Weber-Stephen Products Co. was granted its first U.S. registration for the iconic ornamental appearance of its original charcoal kettle grillU.S. Registration No. 1478530, consisting of “a three-dimensional pictorial representation of the distinctive configuration of the kettle portion of applicant’s barbecue grills,” including “a bottom of generally semi-spherical shape having a top of generally semi-ellipsoid shape,” was granted on March 1, 1988, for “barbeque grills.”  A version of Weber’s original charcoal kettle grill is still produced today, and because trademark registrations are perpetually renewable for marks that remain in continuous use, the 1478530 registration remains in force.  Weber’s successful efforts to protect the unique and distinctive appearance of its kettle grill serve as a useful reminder that brand owners may be entitled to protection beyond just their brand names.