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You Got The Look

And if anyone tries to steal it, you can take 'em to court.

This story appears in the July 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

After three years, you've established a market niche foryour specially designed widgets. Then it happens: A retail chainbrings out a line of widgets that looks suspiciously like yours,right down to its design. You can already picture your market sharedwindling. But what can you do?

Call your lawyer. Even if your product has no patent orregistered , a court can protect your right to theproduct's design and overall look under the "tradedress" theory. This is a more subtle concept than that ofpatents, which protect inventions, and copyrights, which protectliterary and artistic materials. It's also different from thetrademark concept, which protects the names and symbols thatrepresent a product or service. Under the legal theory of tradedress, it's illegal to copy the way a competitor's productlooks if doing so is likely to confuse customers.

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