Sorry Pepsi, Dow got there first.
September 21, 2005 9:21 AM   Subscribe

THE COLOUR PURPLE [is a] Cadbury Limited trademark...
The color Blue is a Trademark of The Dow Chemical Company
The color YELLOW™ is a trademark of Mr.LongArm, Inc.
[T]he color PINK, and other trademarks identified with a ® in these documents are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Owens-Corning Fiberglas Technology Inc.
The color canary yellow is a trademark of 3M.
The color orange is a trademark of Dandy Products, Inc.
The color green is A trademark of Sullair Corporation.
posted by grouse (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My favorite color has always been camo. (usually trademarked Realtree(tm) and such)
But I think I should trademark Black as soon as possible.
posted by Balisong at 9:26 AM on September 21, 2005


Sorry, but is this news to anyone--that companies have trademarked colors.
posted by dobbs at 9:26 AM on September 21, 2005

It seems like everything about this post was pretty much covered in the first linked Cadbury Purple post from BoingBoing -- the color is only copyrighted in situations where the color is likely mistaken for that company's product (ie, I can't make chocolate candy using Cadbury Purple, or advertise my shipping company using UPS Brown -- but I can make candy wrappers in that Brown, and shipping advertising in that Purple.)

[this post sucks]
posted by fet at 9:29 AM on September 21, 2005

Dammit, even ass white is taken.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2005

I like the "This color yellow is a trademark of Mr.LongArm, Inc"
posted by tomplus2 at 9:35 AM on September 21, 2005

What about Brown and UPS?

Is it bad I've never heard of Mr. Longarm, Dandy Products or Sullair?

I guess I'm curious as to what it means? Do I have to give an fee to Dow if I want to use pink? I mean, are there any real world consequences to this or is it about marketing and brand protection?

And how would I go about trademarking a color? I'd like to lock down a few for the royalty payments.
posted by fenriq at 9:35 AM on September 21, 2005

I hereby trademark grey, and demand that matt no longer use it on MeTa.
posted by mystyk at 9:44 AM on September 21, 2005

Is this really needing a 'batshitinsane' tag?
Maybe a 'corporateshill' tag instead...
posted by mystyk at 9:45 AM on September 21, 2005

The colors of Fuligin and Argent are copyright Gene Wolfe.
posted by y2karl at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2005

I think fet answered your questions in his post above. The first link ("Purple") also contains posts near the bottom that have links in them explaining how trademarks work. Basically, you just start using a color with your product, and through use you gain the trademark rights, say for Fenriq's Orange Washing Machines, but your color trademark, as fet pointed out, applies only to orange as used to sell washing machines. From the first link:

"Here's a post from my blog regarding trademark rights and "trademarking:" Link. By the way, "trademark" is not a verb. One can "patent" an invention, and thereby acquire certain exclusive rights in the invention. But one can't "trademark" anything. Trademark rights in the USA are acquired by use. One may choose to register the mark with the USPTO, and it's a good idea to do so, but that is optional. There's no such thing as "trademarking." One can register a mark, but the trademark rights have already been created through use. [Copyrights work the same way. As soon as one creates a work, he or she owns the copyright in the work. Registration is optional, but again a good idea, and indeed necessary if the copyright is to be enforced against infringers]."
posted by Sangermaine at 9:48 AM on September 21, 2005

It's somewhat hard to prove intent in cases such as these, from what I hear second hand. Like if I started a shipping company with brown I would have to try to be ripping off UPS to be convicted. Now it really depends on lawyers and such but if I simply put a brown color on my van with white letters "Geoff Delivers Come Fast!" that wouldn't necessarily be a violation. Maybe a resident lawyer can help define what I'm trying to say in more technical terms. I think this is a good thing because look at the marketplace confusion if someone came out with an iPod in the exact form factor and design as Apple's (everyone here would freak out, and they did when that Chinese company came out with a Shuffle knock off). This is the same thing, as Post-Its are easily identifiable by their canary yellow color, if I made generic Post-Its in canary yellow I would be rightfully sued (riding on GM's brand recognition, marketing, quality of product, etc.).
posted by geoff. at 9:54 AM on September 21, 2005

I should say this is also a good thing from a consumer point of view. We as consumers don't (and shouldn't) have to be super-savvy to buy things. If I walk into a store and only know Styrofoam by its looks and some less-than ethical salesman colored their inferior styrofoam-like-insulation blue I could easily be fooled into buying a product I don't want.
posted by geoff. at 9:57 AM on September 21, 2005

I honestly didn't think anyone could copyright colors. News to me...
posted by cleverusername at 9:59 AM on September 21, 2005

I've always wondered whether "Kodak" yellow and "National Geographic" yellow were the same colour, and if this was intentional (i.e., to reinforce the photographic nature of National Geographic)...
posted by at 10:03 AM on September 21, 2005

Sangermaine, thanks for the breakdown, I saw fet's comment just after mine had posted (of course!).

I am sensing a loophole in here somewhere though that will allow me to corner the market on the use of khaki or olive drab.
posted by fenriq at 10:04 AM on September 21, 2005

Yeah, this stuff always sounds ridiculous on first hearing, but then much more reasonable when you learn about it in more detail. All it boils down to is that you can't use things identified strongly with a competitor as a tool to compete with them in the sense of, especially, possible confusion and, more ambiguously, creating a likeness in order to use their high visibility to your advantage.

It's really a sort of "fair play", and that's why it's pretty commonsensical in practical terms.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 10:08 AM on September 21, 2005

There's nothing commonsensical about the new color squant, which I believe is still owned by Negativland.
posted by eatitlive at 10:10 AM on September 21, 2005

The colour TURD BROWN is a trademark of this post.

Who is the company that sells spark plugs or something that have the glow in the dark pink vans? That's about the only corporate colour I can think of worth trademarking. The rest are just unrecognisable crappy variants of normal colours.
posted by fire&wings at 10:14 AM on September 21, 2005

This is all very closely related to Trade Dress, btw.
posted by bshort at 10:14 AM on September 21, 2005

Pantone #0607298 is a trademark of United Parcel Service. The color is called UPS Brown or Pullman Brown.
posted by grabbingsand at 10:33 AM on September 21, 2005

I was familiar with the concept of trade dress before this post, and even that one could trademark a color, or something simple like a single letter or number, in association with a specific kind of goods or services. There are many more examples of corporations stated that a color is trademarked as applied to a certain sales field.

When I saw this posting today on The Old New Thing, however, what surprised me was the bald-faced declaration of trademark for a color without any qualification whatsoever, just like in the other examples I linked.
posted by grouse at 10:40 AM on September 21, 2005

I could have sworn Oprah owned The Color Purple.
posted by grateful at 10:50 AM on September 21, 2005

I could not foresee this thing happening to you
posted by hal9k at 11:07 AM on September 21, 2005

The comments here are much more interesting than the post itself. They make me more interested in reading more on patents, trademarks and copyrights. Can anyone suggest any interesting reading material on these topics?
posted by horseblind at 11:18 AM on September 21, 2005

Odinsdream: Copyright does not equal Trademark does not equal Patent. And violating any of these does not equal Theft.

I'd like to copyright, trademark and patent my middle finger at excessive and stultifying corporate control of "intellectual property". (Disney gets a very special middle finger in this regard).
posted by Skygazer at 11:23 AM on September 21, 2005

And violating any of these does not equal Theft.

posted by bshort at 11:24 AM on September 21, 2005

Good News, Goth Kids! Black cannot be copyrighted, as it serves a functional purpose in nature!
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:29 AM on September 21, 2005

Can someone delete Boing Boing please?
posted by cillit bang at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2005

(Of course, off-black hues can be trademarked. Re-dye your faded clothes accordingly.)
posted by Smart Dalek at 11:31 AM on September 21, 2005

Well, I don't think it's insane to trademark a specific color if it's widely recognizable as your, well, mark of trade. It prevents someone from mimicking the Kodak packaging or whatever by using the exact same colors and maybe spelling it "Kod@k" or something.

That said, it's still kinda surreal. Thanks for the post - but who owns the rainbows?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 11:34 AM on September 21, 2005

posted by InfidelZombie at 11:38 AM on September 21, 2005

I actually like the post. Notice, it doesn't actually pass judgement on the trademarks, it just points them out.

But if you were to ask me, then I would say that trademarking specific colors or shades thereof, for whatever purpose, is bad. So there.
posted by JHarris at 11:42 AM on September 21, 2005

I call mauve.
posted by kozad at 11:59 AM on September 21, 2005

I could not foresee this thing happening to you

I see a red door and I want to trademark it black. (or rather register the mark as black or allow it to take on the force of a strong trademark through identification in the consumer mind with my black door)
posted by Falconetti at 12:01 PM on September 21, 2005

The color green is A trademark of Sullair Corporation.

Has the Army heard about this?
posted by jonmc at 12:09 PM on September 21, 2005

All it boils down to is that you can't use things identified strongly with a competitor

A color is not a 'thing' in the sense of having been invented and should be left outside this system of corporate protection. It's a step too far and should be left to the marketplace to sort out.

If a delivery company can start up and survive in the earliest stages, in part by using the same color as UPS, and then go on to win any significant amount of business from them then obviously they would doing something right for the market beyond just parading around in brown.

I guess it comes down to this: do you think of 'brown' as UPS or do you think of 'brown' as 'delivery company'? If the latter then why not allow small players to get into the game looking like delivery companies and compete based on other far more important qualities?

I'm not saying they should be allowed to have 'UPS' painted on the sides of their vans, they need to have something obviously different there, I just think regulating the use of color is step too far in protecting extremely well-established interests and can ultimately be more anti-competitive and unhelpful than helpful to consumers.
posted by scheptech at 1:46 PM on September 21, 2005

Can Apple trademark white headphones?
posted by krunk at 2:20 PM on September 21, 2005

I deserve red
posted by Cranberry at 3:10 PM on September 21, 2005

I guess it comes down to this: do you think of 'brown' as UPS or do you think of 'brown' as 'delivery company'?

I think of UPS. They even refer to the company that way: "What can Brown do for you?" FedEx's vans are white, green, and purple. DHL is yellow. Airborne Express is grey and red. What in the world makes you think that having brown vehicles would help any budding delivery company--except by association with UPS, which, QED, is exactly the thing to be avoided.
posted by kjh at 7:21 PM on September 21, 2005

I'm reminded of a former employer of mine (also a delivery company) who issued mission statements including the odious phrase taking ownership of the colour orange.
posted by misteraitch at 1:10 AM on September 22, 2005

I wanna copyright air. That'll show 'em.
posted by deusdiabolus at 3:00 AM on September 22, 2005

Speaking of Orange, they had an almight bustup with Easygroup (owners of Easyjet) when Easygroup first made their move into the mobile phone market. Both use Pantone #151 as their core colour, and both rely on that colour as a core element of their corporate identity. There was more about it in this BBC article. I'm not sure if it ever got to court, but the few ads I've seen promoting Easy Mobile have been in orange and blue...
posted by flameproof at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2005

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