2020 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show: Thoughts from an IP Attorney

by Greg Geiser

In a lesser known song about Denver, Colorado, Jimmy Buffett sings “winter dictates everything from frost to naked trees.” This statement couldn’t be more apropos regarding the 2020 Outdoor Retailer Snow Show this year. Anyone and everyone in the business of gear for surviving the harsh and slippery conditions of winter, enjoying a ride down a powdery slope, and imbibing a cocktail in an insulated mug for après ski is represented. 

This past week I had the pleasure to check in on a few clients and take in the Snow Show in all of vast expanse and glory. It truly is a great show and definitely a great place to get a sneak peek of the improvements and innovation hitting the shelves next winter. Given that innovation is a focus of the show and its many attendees, I thought I may be able provide a little perspective as it relates to my area of expertise and perhaps help some of those up and coming designers, developers, and companies looking to make an impact in future years.

First, trademarks are your friend. The outdoor industry as a whole is growing rapidly with several companies providing multiple lines of goods and selling similar products in multiple categories.  Often the branding, in the form of names and logos, is placed in prominent locations and highlighted. When developing a line of products or a new product, take the time to develop a unique name and brand identity that can be protected though trademark registrations. Often both the name and the logo should be registered. In speaking with several of the smaller brands represented, this is something that was overlooked or not yet completed. One company representative mentioned the value of creating designs that can be protected through trade dress registrations. In particular, this design relied on the unique placement of climbing ropes within a bag that did not have a functional use. Sometimes improvements aren’t patentable and the only way to differentiate your product is through the use of trademark and trade dress protection. 

Design patents should be also considered. Generally, most of the products displayed at the show fit with the apparel category. When protecting apparel, the most logical form of protection is a design patent, which protects the appearance of item and is available to protect elements that are non-functional. Several products have unique aesthetic appearances and non-functional design elements that complete the look of the product that are or should be protected through a design patent. In yet another discussion with a designer, she was disappointed to learn that her unique design element was no longer protectable through a patent as it was not applied for within one year from the date of the first sale. Similar to trademarks, design patents, and patents in general, have several unique rules and laws that can be difficult to navigate without specific experience and knowledge.

Lastly, utility patents and PCT filings are a must. For some of the more technical things and hard goods displayed at the show, utility patent applications are the best thing to utilize in protecting the improvement and recapturing the costs to development and manufacture the item. Further, given the scope of the show and the global audience in attendance, international filings should also be considered. For those unfamiliar, PCT filings, or the Patent Cooperation Treaty, assists applicants in patent protection internationally. Essentially, by filing on international patent application under the PCT, applicants can simultaneously obtain protection for an invention in several countries around the world.

Are you an outdoor company in need of a trademark, design patent, or utility patent or PCT filing? Or maybe you just have questions about how it all works. We're here to help either way. Give me a call at 651.968.4716 or shoot me an email at greg.geiser@gutweinlaw.com. You can also check out gutweinlaw.com/informed-ip for more information on all things intellectual property related.