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The colorful world of trademarks

Barbie has her own color - a trademark pink that distinguishes her packaging and logo from that of other dolls and toys. This may be the reason why so many little girls who love Barbie also love the color pink. For some products, the consumer automatically associates the brand with the color, and this is a plus for you if you want your product to stand out in a crowd.

If your product or service is similar to others in your industry, you likely want to find a way to make its marketing unique and then protect that marketing. One way to do that is through trademark protection. Many companies trademark their brands and logos, and a few have successfully trademarked a distinctive color.

Having yellow for breakfast?

Your packaging, logo or even the product itself may be of a certain color, and maybe you have considered legally claiming that color to prevent your competitors from using it to confuse your customers. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rarely grants trademark status to colors, but there are a few notable exceptions, such as UPS brown, Cadbury purple and Coke red.

If Cheerios are part of your morning breakfast routine, you may have sat staring at that yellow box since you were a child. Recently, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board rejected General Mills' two-year battle to trademark its yellow packaging, partly because consumers don't necessarily think of Cheerios when they see a yellow box. In fact, not only do other cereal manufacturers dress their food in yellow, but Cheerios cereal also comes in many different colored packaging, depending on the flavor.

Leaving your mark

As mentioned, the trademark office in the U.S. does not grant many trademarks for colors. For the best chances of obtaining a trademark for your color, you may consider what other brands have done to accomplish this rare protection, for example:

  • Make sure the color identifies your brand, as Home Depot does with its trademark orange.
  • Refer to your color in your advertising, as UPS did with brown.
  • Be consistent in establishing a history of using that color, as Tiffany did with its signature blue.
  • Include your color or color scheme in your logo, as John Deere does with its green and yellow brand.

When your customers recognize the color and connect it to your brand, you may have grounds for seeking protection through trademark status. For advice and guidance, you can always seek the counsel of an attorney who has experience in federal and Texas state trademark laws.

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