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What is the Doctrine of Aesthetic Functionality in Trademark Infringement?

  • By: Robert Klein

A.V.E.L.A., Inc. and Fleischer Studios, Inc. are in a major legal battle over a well-known cartoon character from the 1930s and 1940s. Namely, Betty Boop. Despite being 70 years removed from her glory days, she still commands enough interest to attract lawsuits over trademark infringement.

Fleischer Studios, which was created in the 1970s by the family of the person who created Betty Boop, claims it owns both the copyright and trademark for the use of Betty Boop, including her name and her image. Meanwhile, A.V.E.L.A. claims that it has the right to use Betty Boop in its business of restoring vintage posters if the image and name of the cartoon character is in the public domain. A. V. E. L. A. does not use other images of Betty Boop that are not part of the original copyrighted posters.

The matter regarding trademarks was eventually settled with the help of the aesthetic functionality doctrine.

What is the Aesthetic Functionality Doctrine?

The aesthetic functionality doctrine is used, in part, to prevent someone with a trademark from hindering competition that is legitimate, if the competition used an image to make his or her product more commercially desirable.

In this case, the Ninth Circuit Court eventually decided against Fleischer Studios, saying that it had not proved it owned a valid trademark. The case was sent back down to the district court, which brought up the aesthetic functionality doctrine and fair use as a reason for A.V.E.L.A.’s valid usage of Betty Boop for commercial purposes. In short, Fleisher could not prevent Betty Boop and her name from being used, because her image was aesthetically functional to A.V.E.L.A.’s posters.

Need a Los Angeles Trademark Infringement Lawyer?

If you feel that someone has violated your trademark, or if someone has handed you a trademark lawsuit, then contact Klein Trial Lawyers today. We specialize in trademarks and our California business attorneys would love to help you and your business protect your rights.

[Did You Know: The first federal-level trademark legislation was passed in 1881.]

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Source: www.courthousenews.com

Robert Klein

About the Author Attorney Robert Klein is a former CPA and known for
finding creative solutions to complex business lawsuits.