Crown Royal’s purple bag with gold trim is distinctive trade dress that is protected on the Federal Trademark Register.
Mexcor, Inc. manufactures and distributes a similar liquor product, Texas Crown, directly competing with Crown Royal. Mexcor’s commercial depicted a cowboy walking into a saloon with a purple bag. The barmaid said, “we don’t drink that poison in this neck of the woods.” She then, of course, goes to pour a glass of Mexcor’s beverage product.
Crown Royal executives were not amused. Crown Royal sued Mexcor for the Texas Crown’s ad’s implication that its liquor was actual poison. The legal question will be whether any customer would actually believe such implication and be deterred from buying Crown Royal because of the commercial. I suspect the answer will be “no”, and a nominative use defense to be raised by Crown Royal.
Why does it matter? Corporative marketing must be carefully crafted to avoid liability for trademark infringement. This a great case exemplifying the power of trade dress protection. All it took was a purple bag to conjure up the image of the Crown Royal product. This is a textbook example of the powerful use of color and product packaging for branding.
Want to do the same thing with your product? Be recognizable and you will be in a class of your own in the mind of your consumer. Contact our trademark team to help you create that iconic status for your product.