Did you know: You can Trademark a color?

It never fails, you create a beautiful company with amazing services or products, you've carefully selected your color scheme and one-day, you have a copycat. You have noticed that they opened a business in the same industry, using the same color scheme, and had the audacity to choose a similar name.

Of course, all of these issues may be a problem. But, what if you never trademarked the color scheme? It's unprotected for trademark purposes.

Normally, when a party uses the "TM" sign, they are providing notice to the world that they have common law rights to the name/symbol that is being portrayed as their unique brand. When they use the "R" in a circle, it signifies that the mark has been fully registered with the Trademark Office.

What about the colors, right?

Colors as the brand:

In a U.S. Supreme Court case regarding color trademarks and branding, it determined that a single color can in fact be considered a brand as long as it's not a functional color and the public strongly associates the color with the product.

In this case, it was a construction company who used pink for insulation. Since this was a construction company, to which pink was not in the normal sense associated within a masculine industry, people knew who this company was every time they saw pink insulation. Thus, pink was associated with the brand, not the actual product of insulation.

Functional Colors:

The Law will not allow you to use a color if it is deemed a functional color. However, you can still trademark your logo or symbol for purposes of protecting your image. A great example is John Deer tractors. Their color scheme is yellow and green. Because green is a functional color (grass, food, etc.), they are not able to trademark that color green.

Let's say that you actually use green as the color on specialized and handmade toy motor bikes, the color may be considered a secondary color and not viewed as functional. Thus, trademarking may be possible.

Using Colors for Limited Purpose:

There are some notable businesses who have trademarked colors like Tiffany's who use a very soft baby blue for their boxes and bags. Thus, they only have a legal right to this color if it was to be confused with another brand or product.

Everything we do in the trademarking and patent world is to allow our brands to stand out from the rest. From the colors, to the symbols, to logos... we want to ensure that it's not confused with another brand in the same industry or competing product.

If you've never considered color trademarking, it may be worth giving a thought. But note that you may be required to narrow down the purpose/product/service to which you are trademarking the color and ensure that the limited purpose is to avoid any brand confusion within your market.

We are here to guide you in this journey.


This article is a service of SL DeBarros Law Firm, LLC. We offer a wide array of business legal services and can help you make the wisest business choices throughout life and in the event of your death. We also offer a Business Protection Start-Up Session or a Business Audit for an ongoing business, which includes a review of all the legal, financial, and tax systems you need for your business. Call us today to schedule.

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