Honda Motor Co. scooted its way to obtaining a three-dimensional trademark registration for the shape of its Super Cub scooter. This marks the first trademark registration ever issued for the shape of a motorcycle or other automotive product in Japan. The Super Cub was first introduced in 1958, and since then, has remained basically the same in design. As a result, consumers recognize the Super Cub as a Honda product, which allows the shape and design of the scooter to serve as a source identifer and therefore be protectable in Japan as a 3D trademark.
Protecting the design of vehicles is not a new concept worldwide. For instance, both the Piaggo Vespa and the Fiat 500 are protected by trademark registrations in Italy. More and more automotive companies are seeking to protect their automotive designs, since designs for popular models of cars and scooters from popular automtive brands are frequently copied. The design of the Super Cub has been "modified" by many designers outside of Japan for decades. For instance, the SYM Symba sold in Australia is one example of a scooter that is...shall we say...similar to the Super Cub. See for yourself:
It will be interesting to see if automotive makers follow the trail Honda has set and whether they will seek protection in the U.S. U.S. trademark law does not specifically include provisions for protecting 3D objects, like Japan, but, to the extent they serve as a source identifier, the unique shape or color of a 3D object could be registered as protectable trade dress. Trade dress is defined as a product's "total image" or "overall appearance" and may include features such as size, shape, color or color combinations, texture, or graphics. If trademark protection is not available, copyright protection and design patent protection are often good alternatives.
The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.