Corporations and Color Ownership — Important Things To Know
When most individuals think of a trademark, they think of words, logos, or other symbols used to identify a particular brand. But color is also a critical aspect of brand identity and can be protected under trademark law. Read on to understand how you can own colors and if you can sue other corporations for using certain colors.
Can Corporations Trademark Colors?
The simple answer is yes. But the viability of a color trademark registration is subject to a few key factors. First, the color must be used on goods or services to create consumer recognition of the brand. In other words, the color must serve as a symbol for the brand itself. For example, robin’s egg blue is often associated with Tiffany & Co. because the company has used that color on its jewelry boxes and packaging for many years.
Additionally, the color should not serve a functional purpose. For example, Pepto-Bismol pink is functional because it helps people identify the product as an antacid. As such, the company cannot trademark that color since other brands in similar product categories need to be able to use the color pink.
The color must have a secondary meaning, which means that it is primarily associated with a single brand in the minds of consumers. To show this, companies seeking to trademark a color must provide evidence like consumer surveys.
Also, the color should not disadvantage other brands competing in the same marketplace. For example, if Nike were to trademark the color black for use on running shoes, that would likely disadvantage other brands selling running shoes who want to use the color black.
Should You Trademark Your Brand’s Colors?
There are a few key benefits to trademarking your brand’s colors. First, the idea can give you a competitive advantage by making it easier for consumers to identify and purchase your products. The distinct color helps create brand awareness and make your products more memorable.
Moreover, a color trademark can be a valuable asset for your company. If another brand in your industry wants to use the same or similar color, you can block them by asserting your trademark rights.
You can also license the use of your color trademark to other companies, which can generate additional revenue for your business. For example, Coca-Cola has licensed the use of its shade of red, so you’ll see it only on Coca-Cola products.
Are there Risks to Trademarking a Color?
While there are benefits to trademarking a color, there are also some risks. First, using a color that is already associated with another brand can put you on the wrong side of the law. In some cases, trademark infringement can lead to a lawsuit. The court proceedings will not just cost you time and money — they will also hurt your brand reputation.
You may need to rebrand if you cannot win the lawsuit or if the court orders you to stop using the color. However, this process is lengthy, and you may lose customers.
How Do You Avoid Color Trademark Risks?
The best way to avoid risks is to select a color not already trademarked by another brand in your industry. You can search the USPTO database of registered trademarks to see if your desired color is already taken.
Most importantly, consult an attorney specializing in trademark law before you file a trademark application. The lawyer will advise you on the risks associated with your desired color and whether it’s likely to be approved by the USPTO.
You can trust us at Mohajerian Law Corp. to guide you through color trademarking. We have extensive experience in intellectual property and will ensure that your trademark application has the best chance of success. Contact us to schedule a consultation.