You Can’t Trademark a Circle

More than three decades after Clemens Franek moved to Los Angeles and teamed up with aspiring actor Woody Harrelson to sell beach towels whose circular shape helped beachgoers tan evenly, a Chicago appeals court has said the invention can’t be trademarked, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Millions of dollars worth of the “most radical beach fashion item since the bikini” (as one ad put it) were sold, helped by Harrelson, who went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Entertainment Tonight” and “The Tonight Show” to promote the towels after becoming famous for his role on the TV series “Cheers.”

No one challenged Franek’s 1988 trademark in court, an attorney involved in the case said, until Franek sued Wal-Mart and Target two years ago for selling their own round beach towels. The towels allow sunbathers to easily adjust to the position of the sun as it travels across the sky.

“Franek wants to trademark the circle,” he writes, later adding, “We cannot permit him to keep the indefinite competitive advantage in producing beach towels this trademark creates.”

Ezra Sutton, a New Jersey attorney who represented another company producing circular towels, said the ruling could be a landmark decision in trademark and patent law.

Photo by

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *