Virtual Trade Dress: A Very Real Problem

Tom W. Bell

56 Md. L. Rev. 384 (1997)


Trade dress protects the public from confusing the features that identify competing commodities. Current trends, however, risk expanding trade dress until it constitutes the very goods and services that it once merely identified. Superficially genuine but fundamentally artificial, this is virtual trade dress. Virtual trade dress stakes out rights more enduring, and in some respects more broad, than those available under either copyright or patent law. Virtual trade dress offers an especially tempting means of monopolizing the "look and feel" of computer interfaces and virtual environments. Because it distorts intellectual property rights in an inefficient and unjustified manner, virtual trade dress poses a very real problem.

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"Virtual Trade Dress" Abstract - - v. 07/99