Monday, August 23, 2010

That's my purple! You can't have it!

"The color PINK is a registered trademark of Owens Corning."

When I read this statement at the foot of the Owens Corning homepage, I was taken aback.

What? Pink? How can you trademark a color? Especially something as generic as "pink!" I've heard of some rich people developing their own proprietary Pantone color, but trademarking "pink?" Just plain pink? Breast cancer support groups everywhere would be doomed. Newborn baby girls' wardrobes would be decimated. Maybe they only mean PINK with all capital letters. Trademarking "pink?" Is that even possible?

I was so appalled by this concept, that I had to some research. It turns out that color trademarking is, in fact, an accepted practice, and (as are all legal matters) very complicated and subject to subtle rules and the interpretation of judges. Check out this page on color trademarks to learn just how corporate entities can (and have done so) defend the exclusive rights to a color.

What I take away from my readings is that, if a color is very closely associated with a good or service a company provides, then they can legally prevent competitors from using that color. However, non-competitors—that is, people providing a distinctly different type of good or service—are free to use the color with abandon. So, breast cancer groups are probably safe from the wrath (and legal action) of Owens Corning, unless they decide to go into the insulation business.


Tariq said...

I guess that makes sense.

I mean, imagine if a parcel company besides UPS painted drove brown trucks. That could cause a lot of confusion.