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Trademarking A Scent

Actress Paris Hilton
feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Paris Hilton and her perfume maker slapped competitor – International Perfume Palace Inc. – with a lawsuit for violating their trademark. But can you patent or trademark a scent?

Something smells fishy here. Paris Hilton is suing a rival perfume maker for infringing on her patent. But here’s the thing: you can’t patent a fragrance.

How would the patent work on that one? I’d like to patent something that smells pretty. That’s why you see knockoff perfumes at drugstores that say “smells almost just like something really expensive.”

But the basis for Hilton’s lawsuit isn’t that the fragrance smells like her, it’s that the packaging on the perfume and body wash products are “identical or confusingly similar” to the heiresses’ products.

Leave it to Paris and the patent law to show us that what’s on the inside matters less than what’s on the pretty package on the outside. Some would say that stinks.

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