werdna writes: "A recent article criticized Apple for overreaching by asserting "design protection" for the product configuration of its iMac line. Apparently the United States Supreme Court might agree with Slashdotters in an appropriate case. In a decision handed down yesterday, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Samara Brothers, Inc., the Court held that product design, like color, cannot be inherently distinctive and obtain trademark-like protections, until it has acquired distinctiveness such that the marketplace naturally perceives the design to be a designation of product source, such as in the way that "International Business Machines" is associated with products from a company in Armonk rather than a general description for typewriters sold internationally. Thus, absent a design patent, it has just become substantially tougher to obtain protections for industrial designs. Time will tell how important this decision will be."
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