In a trademark opinion yesterday, Judge Koeltl granted judgment following a bench trial in favor of a Dutch company, Schutte, that makes “bag closures” — the “small plastic closures that are used to close bags of pastries, bread, and fruit.” Schutte sought to cancel the trademark protection of the dominant U.S. maker of bag closures, Kwik Lok. Here are the two products side by side (Schutte on the left, Kwik Lok on the right):
As Judge Koeltl explained, “[a]lthough they may look like simple pieces of plastic, bag closures are products of considerable engineering designed to ensure that the closures perform several important functions.” He ultimately ruled for Schutte on the ground that functional design elements cannot be protected by the trademark laws:
The products’ shape affects how the closures are produced, stored, and how the closures work in bag closing machines. The products’ configuration affects how efficiently the closure serves its purpose of closing bags for various forms of merchandise. Permitting Kwik Lok to maintain property rights in the closure design would negatively impact the competition that the functionality doctrine aims to protect.