The famous magenta “un-carrier” started life as a regional service provider. Over the years, T-Mobile has stood out for its edgy ad campaigns and its brightly colored displays.
How T-Mobile Got Started
T-Mobile is a subsidiary of the German wireless giant Deutsche Telekom AG. The company started its life as VoiceStream Wireless PCS in 1994. VoiceStream was designed to reach metropolitan areas in western and southwestern states. In 2000, VoiceStream bought two more regional carriers.
With the purchase of Omipoint Corporation and Aerial Communications, VoiceStream now had a larger customer base. In 2001, German carrier Deutsche Telekom purchased VoiceStream and another regional carrier named PowerTel. Deutsche Telelekom renamed this blended company T-Mobile USA. The company began service under that name in 2001. In its first year, T-Mobile had 19,000 employees and 7 million subscribers.
T-Mobile has made a name for itself as “the un-carrier,” which is the wireless company’s term for its innovative approach to customer service. CEO John Legere launched the marketing campaign in 2013. It promised to replace traditional cell phone service with lower rates and more free features.
With more than 80 million customers, T-Mobile is one of the biggest wireless companies in the country.
Its service lines include T-Mobile and Metro by T-Mobile, which was formerly known as MetroPCS. It also sells dozens of cell phone brands, tablets and accessories from Apple, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung and other manufacturers. There are more than 2200 T-Mobile retail stores and kiosks.
How T-Mobile Sets Itself Apart
The company has introduced many firsts. It was among the first wireless carriers to offer completely transparent pricing. It was also among the first to offer completely unlimited data plans. Its $26 million merger with Sprint in 2018 made it the third largest wireless company in the US.
T-Mobile has changed its plan names, plan prices and free extras like Netflix and Pandora, but two things have been consistent. It has always used a large capital T surrounded by square dots in its logo, and it has always used the color magenta in its products and advertising. In 2008, the company received a trademark on the color magenta as part of its color scheme and advertising.
T-Mobile takes its magenta seriously. The company’s CEO John Legere always wears a magenta tee with the company logo on it. He even dyed his hair magenta in 2019.
Name Changes and More
In 2019, T-Mobile announced it was changing the names of its unlimited data plans. Instead of “T-Mobile One” the new names are Magenta and Magenta Plus.
In 2020, T-Mobile changed the look of the stadium that bears its name in Kansas City. Originally named Sprint Center, the T-Mobile Center is all decked out in pillars and signs in the company’s signature shade. There is even a large magenta “Heart KC” sign that’s tailor made for people looking for photo opportunities.
Protecting Its Trademarked Color
T-Mobile has been upfront about protecting its color and trademarks. Its trademark specifies one magenta shade, which is Pantone Rhodamine Red U. Despite this limitation, the company and its parent, Deutsche Telekom, have acted aggressively to fight any perceived attempts to infringe on its official color.
In 2014, T-Mobile successfully sued AT&T’s subsidiary carrier Aio. The carrier was using a color it called “plum” in its advertising. T-Mobile asked Aio to remove the color from all advertising, social media posts, websites and store displays.
The court agreed that Aio’s use of a similar color would confuse customers and validated “T-Mobile’s position that wireless customers identify T-Mobile with magenta and that T-Mobile’s use of magenta is protected by trademark law.”
Read more on trademarked colors, as well as the process for trademarking a brand color.
Going Too Far?
T-Mobile has not won every case, and it has come under criticism for its overly zealous pursuit of supposed trademark infringers.
Shortly after receiving the trademark, the company sued the blog tech blog Endgadget for using a magenta logo. A 2008 post on the Techdirt blog spelled it out in vivid language.
“[T-Mobile] took mobile operator Telia to court in Denmark for its own use of a magenta logo but missed out on a couple of important facts. Telia and T-Mobile don’t compete in the same markets in Denmark, and Telia’s magenta is a different shade of magenta. The court has tossed out the lawsuit, and it has dumped the court costs and Telia’s legal fees onto T-Mobile’s bill. Hopefully that will teach them that trademark law shouldn’t be abused.”
That didn’t seem to slow T-Mobile down, however. In 2018, the company went after a UK-based tech company named dataJar for using magenta in its logo.
Owner James Ridsdale said he has used magenta in his logo for years and had as much right to the color as T-Mobile. He called the lawsuit “unfair and absolutely ridiculous.”
As of 2020, DataJar is still using magenta in its logo.
In 2019, T-Mobile sued a small insurance company named Lemonade for using a magenta-like shade of pink in its advertising. Lemonade CEO Daniel Schreiber told National Public Radio, “You’re talking about one of the three ink cartridges in every printer in the world. The idea that a company can trademark it and own it just defied belief, and I was in a state of disbelief.” Schreiber said he had no intention of changing his company’s colors.
A Bright Magenta Future
T-Mobile is a major player in the telecommunications industry. It has shown a willingness to aggressively pursue the slightest infringement on its chosen shade of magenta. Any company that dares to use T-Mobile’s signature color can expect to hear from the un-carrier’s legal department.