Louis Vuitton just announced that it will no longer use its traditional and distinctive brown for the packaging of its luxury fashion apparel and goods. Instead, Louis Vuitton will employ new packaging designs that include “Imperial Saffron” colored boxes and bags, featuring blue ribbons and handles.
As discussed in two of our previous posts, trade dress protection (an extension of trademark law) can protect product design and product packaging. Trademarks (and trade dress) rights can include protection for colors as well the shape and design of the packaging itself. This was reaffirmed in the highly-publicized 2011 Louboutin v. Yves Saint Laurent dispute where a New York federal court ruled that the Louboutin’s use of red on the soles of shoes can be protected under trademark law.
Louis Vuitton’s biggest challenge is to now establish “secondary meaning” in the new “Imperial Saffron” color (and it’s blue accent pairing) in the minds of its consumers. Louis Vuitton can begin to do this through extended market use and publicity and marketing endeavors. This process of establishing secondary meaning may be bolstered by Louis Vuitton's use of the “Imperial Saffron” color on the inside lining of some of its previous handbags and luggage.
This is a great example of the legal considerations that go into protecting a creative update to a very important part of a brand's intellectual property portfolio, and we're eager to see how the new packaging is received.
For any questions related to protecting trademarks and trade dress, you may contact Aaron Riedel at firstname.lastname@example.org.