Have you ever heard of color trademarks? It’s exactly what it sounds like – a color used to identify a particular brand of goods or services. Lots of companies have them and you have probably heard of a number of them. Maybe your company even has a distinctive color that you would like to call your own?

Can a color be a trademark? Sometimes.

What Are Color Trademarks?

Trademarks are all about source identification. That means that for any trademark to work, it must help consumers find goods or services; when someone sees a trademark, they should immediately think of that brand. Having a trademark in your product name, your business name and slogans are no-brainer, and will often work as trademarks.

But, you can also establish trademark rights in a color, if you do it right. Read on to learn more about companies that have trademarks in a color.

Five Color Trademarks

Here are five examples of well-known color trademarks.

  • Tiffany Blue: Tiffany & Co.’s founder Charles Lewis Tiffany chose this color for their first catalog cover. The shade has gone on to become an international symbol of status and the “Tiffany Blue Box” is highly sought out when making a purchase. The New York Sun writes in 1906, “Tiffany has one thing in stock that you cannot buy of him for as much money as you may offer, he will only give it to you. And that is one of his boxes.”
  • UPS Brown: The major package carrier registered a trademark for UPS Brown in 1998. Why? A company executive explains that when the trucks were painted “Pullman Brown” in 1916 the hue was considered the “epitome of luxury”.
  • Home Depot Orange: The white stenciled logo with bright orange background is recognizable anywhere. Homer, TLC, parent company of Home Depot registered the orange square background in September of 1999 to protect their signage, labeling, advertising, and promotional material.
  • John Deere Green and Agricultural Yellow: You may not believe that a tractor company helped push the boundaries in color trademarking, but in fact John Deere fought many legal battles to get their iconic green and yellow colors trademarked. Now they have a variety of marks protecting their leaping deer logo, name, and colors.
  • Owens-Corning Pink: The 1980’s brought a variety of changes including the very first color trademark. This roofing and insulation company registered the color pink and even licenses the Pink Panther to use on their promotional material.

Keep in mind that just because somebody has a trademark rights in a color, it doesn’t mean that they can go around suing everybody who uses it. Having trademark rights in a color means that these companies can take legal action against companies with a similar offering using these colors as part of a brand. So, if I open a hardware store and do it up in Home Depot Orange, a swift cease and desist (and maybe more) is on its way.

As with anything involving trademark rights, there can be a lot of nuance. That’s what trademark lawyers were invented to help with. Don’t be afraid to reach out to one to discuss the specifics of your situation – your brand and trademarks are key part of your intellectual property.

And remember: brand protection is a process.

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