LitigationPatentTrademark

Ninth Circuit Set to Clarify Aesthetic Functionality Doctrine

A case now pending before the Ninth Circuit, LTTB LLC v. Redbubble, Inc., Docket No. 19-16464, has the potential to clarify the controversial doctrine of aesthetic functionality. Aesthetic functionality has puzzled courts for decades. Particularly before the U.S. Supreme Court issued its modern guidance on functionality in Inwood Labs., Inc. v. Ives Labs., Inc., 456 U.S. 844 (1982); TrafFix Devices v. Mktg. Displays, Inc., 532 U.S. 26 (2001), and Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159 (2d Cir. 2009), courts struggled with how to apply the aesthetic functionality doctrine and issued opinions that, in some instances, muddied the already murky aesthetic functionality waters. Perhaps the most notorious aesthetic functionality case is International Order of Job’s Daughters v. Lindeburg & Co., 633 F.2d 912 (9th Cir. 1980), a case that many observers believed to be abrogated by subsequent Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit opinions but that has recently continued to wreak havoc on trademark law.

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