Utilitarian Functionality Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

Utilitarian functionality doctrine provides that the functional features of a trademark, or those features having primarily a utilitarian purpose, are not granted trademark protection. Where the product requires the trademarked element in order to function optimally, then that element can not be protected by trademark law. When the product features such as shape, color or design increase the aesthetically pleasing nature of the product such that they improve the product's saleability trademark protection is barred. However, now the courts have removed this rigid application of aesthetic functionality. Now, instead of barring features that serve as an “important ingredient” in the saleability of a product, courts have adopted a test inquiring whether the allegedly functional design is necessary to effective competition. If the courts find that the feature is essential for effective saleability, then that element is deemed functional, and therefore not protectable as a trademark.