If you take home one lesson from our humble little blog today, please let it be this: you can’t trademark a circle. We now know this because former film producer Clemens Franek has lost his appeal to trademark his three decades-old, successful circular beach towels. Franek had filed lawsuits in 2006 after three retailers began selling their own similarly-shapped towels. Unfortunately for the inventor, the judge in the case has struck down his appeal and won’t be able to protect his work. A sad story in some ways, but also difficult to shake those “but it’s just a circle!” thoughts out of your head, too. Here’s a bit from the Chicago Tribune:
In a tongue-in-cheek decision that references the Huey Lewis and the News hit “Hip to be Square” and the Euclidean geometry involved with designing such a towel, Chief Judge Frank Easterbrook writes that Franek should have pursued a design patent or created a distinctive mark to brand his towels.
“Franek wants to trademark the circle,” he writes, later adding, “We cannot permit him to keep the indefinite competitive advantage in producing beach towels this trademark creates.”