Trademarking Colours

Brands rely on a colour, or set of colours, as a key factor in their instant recognition. You automatically associate red with Coca Cola, blue for Facebook and red and yellow with Vegemite! The question is - can you own your brand colour?

A specific shade, or combination of colours, can be registered as a trade mark. In order to trademark there needs to be evidence that:

  • The public has come to identify that colour as synonymous with a particular good or service

  • The colour alone is capable of distinguishing the good or service

  • The colour is the trademark - not part of the goods or their packaging

 

What can be protected?

Once granted, a trademark on a colour only relates to a specific shade of colour and is limited to a specific group of products and services. This means that the same shade could still be used by another company whose products or services are sufficiently different.  

 

What can’t be protected?

A functional colour cannot be trademarked, for example, a company that installs synthetic grass couldn’t trademark the colour green because green is the colour of grass (and therefore functional). Similarly, you’re unable to register colours that convey a generally accepted meaning, for example, it’s difficult to trademark combinations of red and orange because those colours are often associated with safety signs and hazard warnings.

 

Three trademarked colours you’d definitely recognise!

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(1.) Tiffany Blue

The Tiffany Blue was first associated with the upmarket jeweller in 1845 when Charles Lewis Tiffany chose the shade for the cover of the company’s first catalog! The colour has been trademarked since 1998 and also has its own custom Pantone number: 1837, the year the company was founded!

 

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(2.) Barbie Pink

It’s trademarked for use in more than 100 categories, from bubble bath to cereal!

 

 

 

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(3.) Cadbury Purple

Cadbury has used a particular shade of purple to package a range of products for over 100 years and believes that the colour alone distinguishes its milk chocolate, would you agree? Cadbury has successfully trademarked their particular shade of purple which prevents competitors from using that shade, or a similar shade, in the packaging of their chocolate products.

 

Dreamhunter Team x

Renae Porter