Sunday, September 22, 2013

TRADEMARKS AND COLOR

Lori’s daughter, Kami, reporting in from Los Angeles. I work with a small law firm that handles a number of trademark registrations and trademark infringement lawsuits.

The US Patent and Trademark office defines a trademark as a “word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.” Many people think of a trademark simply as a brand name – Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Best Buy, Nike. This is simply not the case; a trademark can also be phrases (“Just Do It”), and symbols or designs (the Nike swoosh).
Color plays a major role in brand and product development. Not only does color have an emotional impact, it serves to distinguish one company’s products or services from those of its competitors. Many people find it surprising to learn that companies can indeed trademark a color or color combination.

An important thing to understand about any trademark is that it is registered in a specific “class” to designate the industry in which it is used. This applies to color marks as well. For example, Home Depot uses the color orange in all of its branding.

Home Depot’s Mark:


Description of Mark: The mark consists of the color orange used as a background for advertising, promotional materials, signage, and labels.

Home Depot owns a trademark for the color orange in trademark classes which include gardening, electrical equipment, home improvement education, and lighting fixtures. I can open up an ice cream shop and package my ice cream bars in Home Depot’s orange hue to my heart’s content.  However, if I decide to open a hardware shop next door and hang up some large advertisements in the same color orange, I’ll probably be sued for trademark infringement.

Can you identify some of these registered color trademarks? Answers below.

1. A furniture store

2. A jewelry store

3. A soda brand

4. A candy bar

5. A cell phone company

6. A car company

7. A wholesale club

8. An electronics/computer store

9. A retail chain

10. A bank

11. A shipping company

12. A machinery manufacturer

13. An office supply

14. A home improvement supply

15. A champagne


1.Ikea   2.Tiffany   3.Mountain Dew   4.Cadbury   5.T-Mobile   6.Ford   7.Costco   8.Best Buy   9.Target   10.Bank of America  11. UPS   12. John Deere   13. 3M Post-Its   14. Owens Coring’s Pink Panther Insulation   15. Veuve Clicquot

On your next shopping trip, take a look around you and think about how colors help you identify different brands or even products. Have a great day!

Lori will be back with her regular scheduled programming next week. Thank you for reading!

Please note that I am not an attorney; this post is meant for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

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