Jason travels the country full-time with his wife Abigail, and three children in a converted school bus.
Photo: A rendering of the new Silver Streak
Thor Industries, owners of the Airstream brand of recreational vehicles, have entered a scuffle with the small Silver Streak Trailer Company, a new entity which purchased the rights to the name and design of Silver Streak trailers, a company which launched in the 1940s.
At the heart of the matter is Thor’s claim to ownership of the Airstream “trade dress,” or as Thor put it in a cease and desist letter to Ellie Dillon, owner of Silver Streak, the “silver body and rounded shape.”
Trade dress is a particular type of trademark that is meant to protect the visual appearance of a product or its packaging so that customers will not be confused about the source of the product they are purchasing. The relative portion of the Lanham Act points to product representations “likely to cause confusion, or to cause mistake, or to deceive.”
It’s doubtful that a customer would be confused when buying a Silver Streak, thinking they are getting an Airstream, but Thor does hold a trade dress mark consisting of “the color silver as applied to travel trailers and a configuration of the trailers comprising generally quarter-spherical leading roof lines and an overall curvilinear appearance.”
Dillon has filed a complaint with the Florida Southern District Court for a declaratory judgment allowing her to proceed to produce and sell aerodynamic silver trailers, as the brand did since its inception, minus a recent 20-year period of inactivity. The complaint also seeks to invalidate Thor’s Airstream trade dress registration.
In order to pay for the lawsuit, Dillon and her husband are selling off their collection of vintage trailers that were meant to go on exhibit at the factory, and have set up a GoFundMe page, saying that “after 2 years of design, R&D, and prototyping, lots of trials and errors, we’re finally ready to start production, have lots of interested buyers awaiting the first models […] no one should ‘own’ the shape of anything aerodynamic or the color silver–which is a natural color of aluminum–the best lightweight material we would want to use, which also affords the longest service life in its weight class.”
Dillon expects the lawsuit to cost $100,000 or more. Her new Silver Streaks have been engineered with a modern body rib system, and a boat trailer builder will manufacture the galvanized steel chassis. The floor will be made out of an aluminum composite, keeping the entire structure wood-free. “Basically the goal that I told our design and engineering team to achieve was to make the new Silver Streaks outlast the ones we had that were 70 years old,” said Dillon”, and see to it that we can give clients an ‘I inherited this from my grandpa’ camper–the 100-year service term travel trailer.”