Trademarks and Design Rights in the Furniture Industry

    The furniture industry has seen an increase in trademark registrations in recent times. Many of the trademarks in the furniture industry are associated with design rights. Design rights and trademarks often go hand in hand because design rights protect the physical appearance of either a portion or the entirety of a product.

    By combining the use of trademarks and design rights, a furniture brand owner can enjoy a substantial degree of intellectual property protection over the brand’s products. Several trademark laws even work in tandem with design rights, allowing producers in the furniture industry to benefit from the effects of both.

    Design Rights in the Furniture Industry

    Design rights protect every element of a product’s appearance. In the furniture industry, design rights can be applied to surface decoration, parts for assembly, packaging, graphic designs, and of course, the appearance of the final product itself. This protection might sometimes extend to the furniture’s texture, materials, or colour if they are deemed to define the furniture as unique. Design rights may also protect certain distinguishable characteristics found on the item, including numbers, letters, and symbols. 

    In order to protect a piece of furniture or one of its elements, the design to be protected must be new and distinctive; it must serve as an inherent identifier of the item. Design rights do not protect the function of any piece of furniture. Only the item’s two-dimensional or three-dimensional appearance is protected. 

    Trademarks in the Furniture Industry

    In any industry, trademarks serve to identify the source of certain products and services. The furniture industry is no different. As is the case with other trademarks, furniture trademarks which may provide ample protection must highlight the unique nature of the relevant product. Furniture products which have acquired secondary meaning (a mental association embedded within customers through commercial use) through their appearance may also receive trademark protection.

    In the furniture industry, secondary meaning is typically regarded as being separate from a product’s function. This is because the function of the item ordinarily does not serve to identify the item’s source. However, if a furniture product has any non-functional and distinctive features which may help customers identify the product’s source, the product may be eligible for trademark protection. The use of promotional content and advertising could also help a piece of furniture acquire secondary meaning and thus trademark protection.

    Trademark Laws and Design Rights

    Many countries’ trademark laws provide avenues for the protection of design rights. Additionally, trademark laws and design rights often intersect because it is often possible to protect a product’s appearance through a trademark. This practice is becoming increasingly common and often takes place instead of or in addition to protection of the product’s appearance through design rights.

    The criteria of a trademark which may receive legal protection are largely similar to those of design rights. These criteria are novelty, distinctiveness, and originality. That being said, trademark protection and design right protection do not completely overlap. This is because intellectual property protection related to design rights also guards designs which add a substantial amount of value to products. Trademark laws do not allow trademarks to perform this function.

    The Effects of Trademarks and Design Rights on the Furniture Industry

    Trademarks and design rights have had significant impacts on the development of the furniture industry. More manufacturers than ever before have become eager to obtain intellectual property protection for their furniture. As a result, they have become more inclined to create furniture products which are unique and can easily be distinguished from those of others. Consequently, the level of product differentiation in the furniture industry today is higher than it has ever been.

    Many of the trademarks of the furniture industry are classified as non-traditional trademarks. Non-traditional trademarks related to furniture may include colours, textures, and shapes. The increasing use of non-traditional trademarks in the furniture industry has increased the quality of its products. This is because manufacturers who seek this protection must standardize their products’ distinguishing features and consistently use them on their products. Due to this standardization, quality control standards of the furniture industry have had to increase accordingly to ensure that all relevant products are uniform and thus eligible for trademark protection.

    This article is brought to by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.

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