Published 01/10/2018 by Marin Cionca
Can I Register a Color as a Trademark or Service Mark?
The answer is yes, but it is not easy. Color marks are not inherently distinctive, and thus, they cannot be registered on the Principal Register at the USPTO without a showing of acquired distinctiveness (secondary meaning) under §2(f) of the Trademark Act. Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure (TMEP), 1202.05. So, you may need to start at the USPTO on the Supplemental Register and later provide proof of acquired distinctiveness (i.e., the consumers associate the respective color with your goods or services). One way that may be acceptable by the USPTO to show acquired distinctiveness is to use the color as a mark for five years.
Examples of colors that were found registrable/protectable as trademarks are (per TMEP, 1202.05):
- green-gold color combination used on dry cleaning press pads (the color was found to have acquired secondary meaning; Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Prods. Co., 514 U.S. 159, 34 USPQ2d 1161 (1995));
-the colors green and yellow, as applied to the body and wheels of machines, respectively, not barred from registration on the basis of functionality; evidence established the colors had become distinctive of the goods; In re Deere & Co., 7 USPQ2d 1401, 1403-04 (TTAB 1988)
-the color pink as applied to fibrous glass residential insulation (the evidence showed the color had acquired secondary meaning); In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 227 USPQ 417 (Fed. Cir. 1985);
As suggested from the examples above, for color marks used in connection with goods, color may be used on the entire surface of the goods, on a portion of the goods, or on all or part of the packaging for the goods. “For example, a color trademark might consist of purple used on a salad bowl, pink used on the handle of a shovel, or a blue background and a pink circle used on all or part of a product package.” TMEP, 1202.05. Similarly, service marks may consist of color used on all or part of materials used in the advertising and rendering of the services, such as brochures, business cards, invoices, websites, etc.
Examples of colors that were found unregistrable/unprotectable (per TMEP, 1202.05):
- "blue motif" used in retail stores, not registrable on Principal Register without resort to showing acquired distinctiveness/secondary meaning, because it would likely be perceived by prospective purchasers as "nothing more than interior decoration”; In re Hudson News Co., 39 USPQ2d 1915, 1923 (TTAB 1996);
- color yellow appearing as the predominant uniform background color on product packaging for cereal (evidence insufficient to demonstrate that mark had acquired distinctiveness); In re Gen. Mills IP Holdings II, LLC;
- green rectangular background design as applied to clothing and footwear (evidence insufficient to establish that it had acquired distinctiveness as applied to clothing and footwear; TTAB found that the green rectangle was nothing more than a background design used to display the Benetton trademark and Benetton admitted that it never used the green rectangle separately); In re Benetton Grp. S.p.A., 48 USPQ2d 1214 (TTAB 1998);
- color pink used on surgical wound dressings was found functional and thus unregistrable because the actual color of the goods closely resembles Caucasian human skin; In re Ferris Corp., 59 USPQ2d 1587 (TTAB 2000);
- colors yellow and orange held to be functional for public telephones and telephone booths, thus unregistrable, since they are more visible under all lighting conditions in the event of an emergency; In re Orange Commc'ns, Inc., 41 USPQ2d 1036 (TTAB 1996);
While color can be registered as a trademark or service mark, it is not easy, and thus, some careful planning may be necessary. Takeaways are to choose a color that cannot be interpreted as functional for the respective good or service and to promote the color as a mark, i.e., same way as you promote your other marks (logo, product name, slogan, etc.).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed throughout this blog are the views and opinions of the individual author(s) and/or contributor(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of our firm, CIONCA IP Law. P.C.
Marin11/18/2015 6:11:11 PM
PTAB Decisions Give Examples of Patent Eligible Subject Matter
Marin11/18/2015 6:15:40 PM
Covered Business Method Claims Are Not Required to Particularly Target Financial Industry
Marin11/18/2015 7:31:35 PM
When Is a Thesis Prior Art?
Marin11/19/2015 2:13:05 PM
An Innovator’s Dilemma: Design or Utility Patent?
Marin1/28/2016 9:10:56 PM
How Unpredictability Can Affect Obviousness Challenges
Marin1/28/2016 9:15:16 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board Designates Two Decisions as Precedential
M. Cionca and I. Kim2/4/2016 5:55:16 PM
Software Inventions Are Still Patentable!
Marin Cionca2/16/2016 6:34:53 PM
In IPRs, patentees have to show that substitute patent claims are patentable
I. Kim PhD2/26/2016 8:47:51 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court Will Review Claim Construction Standards and Institution Decision Reviewability.
Iris Kim, PhD3/25/2016 8:34:14 PM
Challenging a Claim’s Validity with Different Standards of Claim Construction
Marin Cionca5/17/2016 8:57:23 PM
Patent Claims Rejection Based on Inherency
Iris Kim, PhD6/1/2016 7:04:50 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board Designates Five More Decisions as Precedential
Marin Cionca9/6/2016 9:26:12 PM
Patent Case Law: New Example of Software as Patentable Subject Matter
Marin Cionca9/15/2016 9:47:39 PM
Patent Law Alert: Federal Circuit Opens Door for More Software Patents
Marin Cionca2/21/2017 12:30:52 AM
Software Patent Law Update: Federal Circuit Finds Graphical User Interface Patentable
Marin Cionca4/25/2017 9:48:49 PM
Monetization of Patents: How to Make Money with Patents
CIONCA - Staff6/15/2017 5:32:14 PM
Patent Law: Challenging the Patent Claim Definiteness Requirement
CIONCA - Staff6/28/2017 8:26:07 PM
Patent Law: Conditions Precedent May Expose Method Claim to Broad Interpretation During Prosecution
CIONCA - Staff8/9/2017 5:39:58 PM
Patent Case Study: The Novelty Of An “Invention” Is NOT Enough To Make It Patentable
CIONCA Staff8/20/2017 3:16:11 PM
CIONCA on Patents: Think Twice Before Suing for Patent Infringement and Fight Back when Unreasonably Sued
staff9/15/2017 9:33:30 PM
staff9/27/2017 5:00:12 PM
Claim Indefiniteness During Patent Pre-Issuance: Define Your Invention, Not Just Your Audience
staff9/27/2017 5:12:07 PM
CIONCA - Patent and Trademark Law Attorney
Staff9/28/2017 7:27:22 PM
Staff11/3/2017 4:20:04 PM
An Introduction to Provisional Patent Applications
11/10/2017 6:47:44 PM
An Introduction to Design Patent Applications
11/17/2017 1:24:20 PM
An Introduction to Patent Searches
12/1/2017 8:01:27 PM
An Introduction to Patent Cooperation Treaty Applications
12/26/2017 6:04:25 PM
CIONCA Sets Foot in San Francisco
1/2/2018 7:47:09 PM
The Lanham Act: Disparagement Provision Violates the First Amendment
CIONCA Team1/17/2018 8:12:06 PM
A Fork in the Road: Production or Protection?
CIONCA Team2/16/2018 4:07:48 PM
Fashion and Intellectual Property
3/8/2018 1:25:46 PM
Proceed with Caution: Consider Carefully when Narrowing Claims for Allowance
3/20/2018 12:50:05 PM
Andrei Iancu - New Director of the USPTO
CIONCA Staff4/13/2018 9:10:04 PM
It Take Two to Tango: Knowles v. Iancu, a Standing Dispute in a PTAB Decision
CIONCA Staff4/20/2018 5:25:25 PM
USPTO Changes Examination Procedure Pertaining to Subject Matter Eligibility in View of Berkheimer v. HP, Inc.
5/4/2018 7:37:51 PM
The Hague System for Protection of International Designs
CIONCA IP5/17/2018 9:54:58 PM
Marin Cionca Presents at OCIPLA May 2018 Luncheon
7/3/2018 7:44:33 PM
Impax Laboratories Inc. v Lannett Holdings Inc. on Claim Invalidation
Marin Cionca7/31/2018 6:50:05 PM
My patent expired? Can I still sue for patent infringement?
Staff8/16/2018 4:24:01 PM
Correcting or Changing a Patent After Issue Through the Central Reexamination Unit
Staff8/31/2018 7:26:58 PM
Patent Claim Interpretation By Federal Circuit's on Facebook's Contiguous Image Layout
CIONCA Team Member9/17/2018 4:33:20 PM
Trademarks and Likelihood of Confusion: Federal Circuit’s Decision in In re: Detroit Athletic Co.
Marin Cionca10/1/2018 7:42:12 PM
Can I Register a Color as a Trademark or Service Mark?
CIONCA Team Member10/16/2018 6:50:31 PM
A Double-Edged Sword: Benefit of Priority or Longer Patent Term
CIONCA Team Member11/19/2018 1:07:51 PM
The Appeals Process
Marin Cionca12/8/2018 8:35:06 PM
IP Assets - Procurement, Enforcement, Monetization
CIONCA Team Member12/18/2018 6:12:48 PM
Schlafly v. The Saint Louis Brewery: The Registration of Merely a Surname
CIONCA Team Member1/4/2019 4:12:21 PM
In re: Tropp: New Matter in a Continuation Can Be Relevant to Written Description Requirement
Marin Cionca1/23/2019 9:45:30 PM
Patent Law Alert: All Sales of the Invention, Including Secret Sales May Invalidate a Patent
CIONCA Team Member2/5/2019 7:22:27 PM
TiVo Puts Tivoli on Pause: TTAB’s Decision in TiVo Brands LLC v. Tivoli, LLC
CIONCA Team Member2/19/2019 7:12:46 PM
Revised Guidance by USPTO on Patent Subject Matter Eligibility and Examining Computer-Implemented Functional Claims
Marin Cionca3/1/2019 9:36:50 PM
USPTO Director Andrei Iancu Visits Orange County!
CIONCA Team Member3/21/2019 3:49:43 PM
Defining Inherency: A Decision in Personal Web Technologies, LLC v. Apple, Inc.
CIONCA Team Member4/3/2019 7:25:37 PM
The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Designates Three Decisions Precedential
Marin Cionca4/17/2019 3:48:33 PM
What Qualifies as Proper Use in Commerce Claim in a USPTO Trademark Application?
CIONCA Team Member5/7/2019 7:13:41 PM
The Federal Circuit Defines a Technological Invention
CIONCA Team Member5/20/2019 8:25:57 PM
PTAB Designates Cases as Precedential
Marin Cionca6/11/2019 8:43:17 PM
Can I Successfully License My Invention?
CIONCA Team Member6/27/2019 7:41:52 PM
Obviousness in a Single Prior Art Instance: Game and Technology Co., LTD., v. Activision Blizzard INC., Riot Games, INC.
CIONCA Team Member7/5/2019 2:22:42 PM
In re: Global IP Holdings LLC: Broadening Claims Through Reissue Applications
CIONCA Team Member8/5/2019 2:29:33 PM
Is Speculation Enough Evidence for an Appeal?: General Electric Company v. United Technologies Corporation
CIONCA Team Member8/19/2019 7:46:17 PM
In re Yarnell Ice Cream, LLC: Trademark Descriptiveness and Acquired Distinction
CIONCA Team Member9/4/2019 7:20:46 PM
Guangdong Alison Hi-Tech Co. v. International Trade Commission: Objective Boundaries
Marin Cionca9/27/2019 9:32:48 PM
Can an Online Patent Attorney File My Patent?
CIONCA IP10/7/2019 5:44:50 PM
A Decision in Henny Penny Corporation v. Frymaster LLC
CIONCA IP10/16/2019 1:28:13 PM
To Use or Not to Use: The Statutory Period of Trademark Nonuse Prior to Presumed Abandonment
11/15/2019 8:15:11 PM
Liqwd, Inc. v. L’Oreal USA, Inc.: Objective Indicia and Copying
Marin Cionca12/9/2019 8:07:20 PM
A “glove” approach to patent claim construction
CIONCA IP 12/31/2019 4:29:41 PM
The Chamberlain Group, INC. v. One World Technologies, INC.
CIONCA IP 1/9/2020 4:43:58 PM
The Bigger Picture: TTAB’s Decision in In re James Haden, M.D., P.A.
CIONCA IP 1/15/2020 4:47:19 PM
FOX Factory, Inc. v. SRAM, LLC: Presumption of Nexus
Marin Cionca2/9/2020 7:46:10 PM
Analogous Prior Art or Not? A critical patent obviousness question
CIONCA IP3/10/2020 7:45:30 PM
Koninklijke Philips N.V. v. Google LLC, Microsoft Corporation, Microsoft Mobile Inc.
CIONCA IP3/16/2020 8:43:10 PM
GS CleanTech Corporation v. Adkins Energy, LLC: Inequitable Conduct
CIONCA IP4/13/2020 9:33:36 PM
Two of a Kind: TTAB on Shannon DeVivo v. Celeste Ortiz
Marin Cionca4/15/2020 4:41:43 PM
The Day After COVID-19 Pandemic – Hope or Fear?
CIONCA IP 5/19/2020 7:36:30 PM
Uber Technologies, Inc. v. X One, Inc.: “Obvious to Try” Rationale
Marin Cionca, Esq.
Registered Patent Attorney
USPTO Reg. No. 63899
About CIONCA® IP Law firm: We are an Orange County, CA based boutique intellectual property firm with a focus on patent and trademark application, prosecution, opinion, licensing and IP enforcement services, offering its IP services primarily at flat fee rates. We serve local OC clients, as well as clients throughout US and international clients.
We’d love to hear from you…we just need a little info
about your plans to take over the world!
P.S…Feel free to call us! (800)985-9198
Thank you for your message. We will respond within 24-72 hours. Thank you.