Augusta National Inc. recently received a trademark for the iconic Green Jacket presented to every winner of the Masters Golf Tournament since 1949. Augusta National Inc. received Trademark Registration No. 6,000,045 for the trade dress of the Green Jacket for the “promotion of goods and services through sponsorship of sports events” and “organizing and conducting golf tournaments”.
Trade dress refers to the appearance of a product or service used to identify the source of a product. In order to register the trade dress of a product as a trademark, the design has to have acquired distinctiveness. This means that the general public recognizes the trade dress as a source identifier. Thus, the owner can claim rights in the overall design of the product.
Augusta National, Inc. obtained previous trademarks to the words GREEN JACKET for various goods and services. However, protection of the appearance of the Green Jacket itself was elusive until recently. The description of the mark states “the mark consists of the colors of green and gold where the color green is applied to the jacket and the color gold is applied to the three waist buttons and the two sleeve buttons on each arm of the jacket.”
The Trademark Office initially refused registration for the mark on the basis of non-distinctive trade dress. The Trademark Office stated that the color of the jacket was merely ornamental in nature. Registrant submitted evidence that the Green Jacket has gained worldwide notoriety as being symbolic of success at the Masters Tournament. Registrant also submitted evidence of the rigid standards applied to wearing the jacket. Such standards include marking each jacket for identification and prohibiting the sale or gifting of jackets under any circumstances. Masters Tournament winners can only take the jacket home until the next year’s Masters Tournament. The winner must return the jacket to the Augusta National Golf Club at that time. The winner may then only wear the jacket at the club. In light of the evidence presented, the Trademark Office allowed registration of the mark as distinctive trade dress.
The trademark registration is a big win for Augusta National Inc. The Green jacket is iconic as a prestigious award for winning the Masters Tournament and is now protected as distinctive trade dress. This goes to show that trademark registration of trade dress is another tool a company can use to protect its brand.