Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Square Donuts

Over the pasture and cross the road, there’s an outstanding little example of trade dress in action.

Square Donuts opened a shop on Clay Road, on the corner of Westway Park. The donuts aren’t the only thing that’s square. The CEO, Thai Klam, even extended the corporate graphics to his fleet of delivery vehicles: a half dozen Toyota Scion xBs. These square, boxy shapes are a great extension of the corporate logo. They really caught my eye and underscored the complete design approach.

Large firms are extremely conscious of trade dress, the “distinctive, nonfunctional feature, which distinguishes a merchant's or manufacturer’s goods or services from those of another. The trade dress of a product involves the ‘total image’ and can include the color of the packaging, the configuration of goods, etc. Even the theme of a restaurant may be considered trade dress.” (In the UK, it’s called “livery.”)

What’s remarkable – worthy of notice – is how thoroughly a tyro firm like Square Donuts has carried its trade dress into just about every element of its sales arena.

Thai Klam didn’t invent square donuts. Depending on what you read, that honor probably goes to Richard Comer of Terra Haute, IN, circa 1967. Square donuts have shown up in New Orleans and New York City as well. But Klam has run with the idea. He and his wife, Ann, a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Academy, also designed the lunch menu. The restaurant serves nine blends of coffee, produced at a roasting plant in Austin (PRDA).

Klam’s graphic designer is Chan Do. Between them, they have mounted a serious claim to the square company logo concept as a unique trade dress. In a Wolff Companies press release, Klam has said, “Our plan was to create the image – square donuts in a square car with a square driver. We worked with a local Toyota dealer and do a lot of promotions with Scion. We have used our Scion show car for corporate functions and school events. Sometimes, we’ll take a motorcade of Scions to an event as a cross-promotion with Toyota.”

Trade dress is a crucial part of your corporate graphic efforts, especially if it uniquely identifies your business, your product or your service. Since it becomes part of your brand, you ought to nurture it and protect it like crazy. A name like Square Donuts could be what the US Supreme Court calls a “suggestive mark.” But there is no TM or ® on the Square Donuts logo – only a copyright on the design. It may be that the words “square donuts” can’t be trademarked…but the trade dress can definitely be protected.

In addition to creating an individual neighborhood eatery, then, the owners and designer have begun to build something just as distinctive in the Square Donuts trade dress. It’s not only good creative, it’s good thinking.
And the donuts are fine.


Susan Kirkland said...

Turning donuts into love handles, Richard?
Informative piece, thanks.

Thai Klam said...

Richard: Thank you very much for your “blog”, we appreciate the comments and look forward to serving you again in the near future.

When it comes to trade dress, we definitely agree with your remarks about protecting your brand. That is the very reason we have trademarked the name “Square Donuts” (USPTO Registration Number: 3045447), and service mark “Never Cut Corners.”

(USPTO Registration Number: 3058895).

Square Donuts -
Never Cut Corners -

Thanks again for your blog, and if you like spicy food…I’d recommend our Spicy Chipotle Chicken Sandwich…it’s absolutely delicious! Best regards, Thai Klam.