In today’s highly competitive business landscape, the importance of protecting a brand’s unique identity & distinctive features cannot be overstated. Trade dress, a concept that encompasses the overall visual appearance and image of a product or service, plays a crucial role in establishing brand recognition and consumer loyalty. The Trade Mark Act 1999, in India, provides legal protection for trade dress, ensuring that business can safeguard their valuable intellectual property rights. This article delves into the concept of trade dress, it’s significance, and explores landmark cases that have shaped its interpretation and application in India.

Understanding Trade Dress  

Trade Dress refers to the distinctive and non-functional features of a product or service that identify its source and distinguish it from others in the market. It encompasses various elements, including product packaging, design, colour schemes, shapes, textures, and even the overall look and feel of a business establishment. These features collectively create a unique commercial impression that consumers associate with a particular brand.

The Trade Mark Act of India recognizes trade dress as a form of trade mark, enabling businesses to register and protect their trade dresses from infringement. Section 2(1)(zb) of the Act defines TradeMark as a “mark capable of being represented graphically and which is capable of  distinguishing the goods or services of one person from those of others.” This broad definition encompasses trade dress allowing businesses to secure legal protection frothier distinctive visual identities.

Significance of Trade Dresses Protection  

Trade dress protection is crucial for businesses for several reasons:

  1. Brand recognition: A well-established trade dress helps consumers instantly recognize and associate a product or service with a particular brand, fostering brand loyalty and consumer confidence.
  2. Competitive Advantages:  By preventing competitors from imitating or adopting confusingly similar trade dress, businesses can maintain a unique market presence and protect their competitive advancement.
  3. Consumer Protection: Trade Dress protection safeguards consumers from being misled or confused by similar-looking products or services ensuring they can make informed purchasing decisions.
  4. Exclusivity: Registering Trade Dress grants businesses the exclusive right to use and exploit their distinctive visual identities, preventing others from capitalizing on their goodwill and reputation.

Land Mark Cases in India :

Several Landmark cases have shaped the interpretation and application of trade dress protection in India. These Cases have clarified the scope, requirements, and limitations of trade dress rights, providing valuable guidance for businesses and legal professionals. Here are some notable cases :

  1. Cadbury India Ltd. v. Neeraj Food Products (2007) :

In this case, the Delhi High Court recognized Cadbury’s distinctive purple colour scheme and packaging as a valid trade dress. The court held that Cadbury had acquired a significant reputation and goodwill associated with its trade dress, and the defendant’s imitation amounted to passing off and infringement of Cadbury’s trade dress right.

  • Procter & Gamble Home Products Pvt. Ltd.

              v. Hindustan Unilever Ltd.  (2013)

This case involved a dispute over the trade dress of Procter & Gamble’s “Head and Shoulders” shampoo bottle. The Delhi High Court ruled that the bottle’s shape, colour combination, and overall get-up had acquired distinctiveness and were entitled to trade dress protection. The court also emphasized the importance of considering the overall impression created by the trade dress, rather than focusing on individual elements.

  • Marico Ltd. v. Agridept Ltd. (2009)

In this case, the Bombay High Court acknowledged that the unique shape and packaging of Marico’s “Parachute” coconut oil bottle constituted a valid trade dress. The court granted an interim injunction against the defendant, preventing them from using a deceptively similar trade dress that could cause confusion among consumers.

  • Toyota Jidosha Kabushiki Kaisha v. Prius Auto Industries Ltd. (2017)

The Supreme Court of India, in this landmark case, recognized the validity of Toyota’s trade dress rights over the distinctive shape and design of the “Prius’ hybrid car model. The court emphasized that trade dress protection extends beyond traditional trademarks and can encompass the overall visual appearance of products, provided it meets the necessary criteria of distinctiveness and non-functionality.

  • Carlsberg Breweries A/S v. Som Distilleries & Breweries Ltd. (2020)

In this recent case, the Delhi High Court granted trade dress protection to Carlsberg’s distinctive green bottle design and label, ruling that the defendant’s imitation amounted to infringement and passing off. The court highlighted the importance of considering the overall impression created by trade dress, rather than dissecting individual elements.

These landmark cases have not only reinforced the legal recognition of trade dress in India but also provided valuable guidance on the scope, requirements and limitations of such protections. They have emphasized the importance of distinctiveness, non-functionality and the overall commercial impression created by the trade dress, while also acknowledging the need to balance trade dress rights with fair competition and consumer interests.


Trade dress protection under the Trademark Act of India plays a vital role in safeguarding businesses, and unique identities and ensuring fair competition in the market. Through landmark cases Indian courts have established a robust legal framework for recognizing and enforcing trade dress rights, providing businesses with the necessary tools to protect their intellectual property assets. As the business landscape continues to evolve, trade dress protection will remain a crucial aspect of trademark law, enabling businesses to maintain their competitive edge and foster consumer trust in their brands.

contributed by : DEVESH MODI


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