Can you trademark a color?


Can you trademark a color? Of course you can. You see it every single day. UPS trademarks brown. T-Mobile trademarks magenta. Tiffany trademarks blue. So what's the trick? It’s not that easy. There must be substantial evidence that the color has acquired distinctiveness or secondary meaning. What does that mean?

It means that when a consumer sees that color, he is associating that product with you as the manufacturer. That's why nobody can own a color. They can only get exclusive rights to it when using it in a very small and narrow market segment.

UPS cannot prevent everyone from using the color Brown, but it does have exclusive rights to it when associated with delivery trucks. T-Mobile can not prevent everyone around the world from using the color magenta. It actually tried when it went after Engadget for using the color Magenta on its website. Ridiculous! There is no competition between the companies. T-Mobile only has exclusive rights to the color magenta when associated with cell phone service.

That’s why the USPTO is going to apply the law very narrowly when reviewing your application. They want to make sure that (1) the color is not functional. You won't be able you get the color orange trademarked in association with clay roof-tiles. (2) They want to make sure that it isn’t for purely for esthetic reasons. You won't be able to register the color orange in association with T-shirts. Why? It’s just esthetics. It’s not connecting you the manufacturer with the product. Thank God for that.

Registering a trademark for a color can be very important. It's a tool used to prevent consumer confusion. It’s not that easy to get. It's narrowly applied … but when done right it could be a powerful tool