The U.S. Patent Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board denied a bid by VF Corp. to register the design of Timberland’s iconic Yellow Boot, concluding that it lacks sufficient acquired distinctiveness. The board noted that there was no evidence that competitors were trying to intentionally copy the boot’s trade dress, although their products shared common features with Timberland’s design.
The board also downplayed statements by retailers, noting that the strength of the brand and the recognition of its logo were distinct from the design features that VF wanted to protect. VF’s trademark application pointed to key features of the Yellow Boot’s design such as its bulbous toe box, its ankle collar, the shape and color of its outsole, the rear heel panel, the eyelets and the vamp from back to front. The board discounted the long use of the design: Timberland started selling the boot in 1988, but its basic design actually dates back to 1774.