Since 1949, a green jacket has been awarded to the winner of the Masters Tournament, one of golf’s four major championships. Although Augusta National, Inc. had successfully registered the word mark GREEN JACKET as a trademark for various types of products and broadcasting services, as well as for “jackets,” it did not own any rights in the design and appearance of the jacket itself. It has now successfully registered the “trade dress” of the green jacket as a protected trademark for “promotion of goods and services through sponsorship of sports events” and “organizing and conducting golf tournaments.”
The mark as it appears in the Certificate of Registration, which issued under No. 6,000,045 on March 3, 2020, is depicted below.
The description of the mark in the Registration reads as follows: “[t]he mark consists of the colors green and gold where the color green is applied to the jacket and the color gold is applied to the three waist buttons and the two sleeve buttons on each arm of the jacket.”
In order to register the “trade dress” of a product design, it is generally necessary to demonstrate that the design has “acquired distinctiveness” entitling the user to claim exclusive rights in the overall product design. In supporting its bid for registration, Augusta National provided significant evidence showing that the jacket itself had acquired widespread fame and recognition. The evidence submitted to establish the distinctiveness of the “Green Jacket trade dress” included decades of international media coverage, images of the green jacket being awarded to and worn by tournament winners, the strict control that Augusta National places over the use of the green jacket, the use of the green jacket to promote the services at issue, third-party recognition of the green jacket as being associated with the Masters Tournament, as well as other evidence of widespread notoriety and source indication.
The take away for trademark owners from this development is to think outside the box when it comes to identifying what functions as a “source identifier” for your company’s products and services. The US Trademark Office over the years has expanded its recognition of what functions as a protected trademark, and it has issued trademark registrations not only for the traditional word marks and logos, but also for product designs, motion marks, sound marks, scent marks, and color marks. The possibilities are endless.