Journal of Intellectual Property Law


The Supreme Court last addressed trade dress law’s functionality doctrine in TrafFix Devices, Inc. v. Marketing Displays, Inc. decided in 2001. This article applies content analysis to data from post-TrafFix functionality cases to provide insights concerning the functionality doctrine. It emphasizes data from cases concerning motions for summary judgment and preliminary injunction. The analysis employs two conceptual constructs: a “useful/aesthetic continuum” and “mixed-character” design features. The article also considers data in light of a “two-bar mandate” and two principles: “useful-scarcity” and “aesthetic-abundance.” It concludes with observations concerning the post-TrafFix functionality doctrine and suggestions for improving its judicial administration. These include skepticism concerning claims that the overall appearance of a combination of design features is aesthetic or nonfunctional.