Appeals Court: Chippendales Cannot Trademark ‘Cuffs & Collar’

WASHINGTON, D.C.—A federal appeals court has ruled that Chippendales cannot trademark its “Cuff and Collar” outfit made famous by its male dancers.

According to Courthouse News Service, “The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected Chippendales' trademark application in 2000, declaring that the ‘Cuffs & Collar’ outfit was not ‘inherently distinctive.’”

The argument revolved around the difference between the Chippendales outfit and the Playboy bunny suit, which also sported cuffs and a collar and had been in use for decades before Chippendales introduced theirs.

Judge Timothy Dyk, writing for the three-judge appeals panel, said the relevant mark was adult entertainment rather than the gender of the performers wearing the outfit.  

"The Playboy bunny suit, including cuffs and a collar, was widely used for almost twenty years before Chippendales' first use of its Cuffs & Collar trade dress," he wrote. "The Cuffs & Collar mark is very similar to the Playboy bunny costume, although the Cuffs & Collar mark includes no bunny ears and includes a bare-chested man instead of a woman in a corset.”

Dyk added, "The pervasive association between the Playboy brand and adult entertainment at the time of the Board's decision leads us to conclude that the Board did not err in considering the mark to be within the relevant field of use.”

The ruling did override the trademark office’s decision to also exclude other paraphernalia used by dancers—such as stethoscopes, construction worker utility belts and 10-gallon hats—that Chippendales had sought to trademark.

"It is incorrect to suggest that no costume in the context of the live adult entertainment industry could be considered inherently distinctive," Dyk wrote. "Simply because the live adult entertainment industry generally involves 'revealing and provocative' costumes does not mean that there cannot be any such costume that is inherently distinctive."