Obituary: Steven Bazerman, IP lawyer
The New York Times reports sad passing of Steven Bazerman — the erstwhile IP lawyer whose work pioneered many aspects of the law concerning trade dress and secondary meaning. Among his accomplishments:
Companies today understand the value of such details as the shape of a bottle or the position of a label on a pair of pants. But the idea that these details could be protected under trademark law was largely untested until Mr. Bazerman began taking product imitators to court in the 1980's.
His legal work helped to build a body of case law around "secondary meaning," which Mr. Bazerman said could include the unwritten, unspoken signals about a product's origin that are given off by its appearance.
Mr. Bazerman [used] consumer surveys to his advantage in…lawsuits, most notably in a case in which LeSportsac sued Kmart in the Southern District of New York for selling a line of bags that looked like LeSportsac's highly successful ripstop nylon luggage and handbags. The Kmart bags did not have labels suggesting they came from LeSportsac, but consumer surveys by both companies showed that many people could not distinguish the origin of either bag. … Today some consider the LeSportsac case the primary case in the development of "trade dress protection" under the Lanham Act.
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