Development of a brand through trade mark protection
A Dr Martens case study

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Page 4: Investing in the development of the business

Dr Martens 2 Image 5Griggs wanted to protect its ability to invest in the development of its business through advertising its brand and this investment was secured through the relevant Trade Mark protection. Without protecting and policing its Trade Marks, Griggs would have little security that the AirWair marks could be used exclusively by itself, leading to competitors branding their products using these marks, leading to consumer confusion.

Dr. Martens footwear has a number of distinctive product features, which in Intellectual Property Terms are called the “Get-up”, or more commonly the “Trade Dress”. Trade Dress features are used in much the same way as Trade Marks, in that they are an indicator to the consumer that the products emanate from a single source, giving the consumer certain quality and perception expectations and also evoking the image of the brand. Some of the footwear features which are jealously guarded are, for example:

  • YELLOW WELT STITCH - By using a distinctive yellow thread in the manufacture of Dr. Martens “Z” welt footwear, the consumer has grown to associate this feature with the Trade Marks and therefore the Yellow Welt Stitch acts as a distinguishing feature.
  • GROOVED SOLE EDGE - This appears as horizontal lines around the PVC sole, creating a ridged design and has become another Trade Dress feature.
  • TWO-TONED SOLE EDGE - Found at the point on the sole edge where the welting material meets the PVC sole. This has been used consistently over the years.
  • DMS SOLE PATTERN - The DMS sole pattern has been used since the 1960s.
  • OVERALL CONFIGURATION OF THE 1460 BOOT - The eight eyelet boot with the Trade Dress features outlined above, was initially produced on the 1 April 1960. Its style number refers to the initial production date of 1.4.60.

Problems without protection

Problematic is the issue of copying, a practice that results in the production of a look-a-like product by an unauthorised third party. The copies are usually products, which in the case of Dr. Martens footwear may use dissimilar word and logo markings, although using an identical or confusingly similar Trade Dress to the original. This has become a major issue for the company as its product is associated with fashion and the footwear is sold internationally. The Company enforces its Intellectual Property Right in all countries.

Dr Martens | Development of a brand through trade mark protection