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Pine Tree Crushes Palm Tree in Battle of Car Air Fresheners

Daniel Mills, Trademark Attorney

Posted Thursday, December 17, 2015 by Daniel Mills

On the day I posted about the lawsuit involving Car-Freshener and rival Exotica Freshener Company over trademark infringement, the jury in the case found that the Exotica’s palm tree design, packaging, and colors infringed on Car-Freshener’s much more familiar pine tree shaped product. The story of the verdict in the New York Times includes an image that compares the two products.

When I look at the image, I can see why the jury found that the trade dress was confusingly similar. Trade Dress used to refer only to a products packaging, but over the years has been extended to protect a product’s design. In this case, the jury found that both the packaging and the product design were similar enough to cause confusion as to the source of goods. In other words, the average consumer might believe that the palm tree air freshener was made by the same company that made the pine tree version.

The legal principle behind trade dress is the perfect subject for a future post.

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