Can you trademark a color?

Yes, you may trademark a color provided that the color plays an important part of your product or service’s brand identity.

This information was provided by our founding attorney, Xavier Morales, Esq. 

A color trademark would not prevent a company in a different field from utilizing that particular shade, but it does prevent the use of that color in a way that would create brand confusion.

For example, a clothing company would not have any problem using UPS’s particular shade of brown.  However, if another package delivery company started using the color brown to market and brand their services, that would likely result in an infringement of UPS's trademark rights to the color brown.

Examples of Trademarked Colors

1. UPS Brown

The famous UPS brown was originally "Pullman Brown". In a NYT interview, Peter Fredo explains:

''They started out being Pullman brown,'' said Peter Fredo, U.P.S.'s vice president for advertising and public relations, when I ask him about the history of the brown trucks. The trucks have been brown since 1916. ''The reason they picked up on Pullman,'' Mr. Fredo said, ''is that it was the epitome of luxury and class at the time.''

2. Tiffany Blue

As explained on the Tiffany & Co. website:

The color known as Tiffany Blue was selected by founder Charles Lewis Tiffany for the cover of Blue Book, Tiffany’s annual collection of exquisitely handcrafted jewels, first published in 1845. Also referred to as robin’s-egg blue or forget-me-not blue, this distinctive color may have been chosen because of the popularity of the turquoise gemstone in 19th-century jewelry. Turquoise was also a favorite of Victorian brides who gave their attendants a dove-shaped brooch of turquoise as a wedding day memento.

3. T-Mobile Magenta

T-Mobile has registered its trademark Magenta, which was upheld in a case against AT&T:

A squabble over who stole the magic marker seems more fitting for a classroom than a courtroom. But a federal judge has sided with T-Mobile in a recent trademark lawsuit, saying that Aio Wireless, an AT&T subsidiary, isn't allowed to use colors resembling T-Mobile's promotional "magenta" color.

The Texas court has ordered AT&T to stop using Pantone 676C, a.k.a "plum," over fears that it might cause consumers to confuse the two brands. According to the presiding judge, T-Mobile successfully argued that letting Aio continue to use a variant of magenta would cause it irreparable harm. (Source)

You can see more examples like these in our full article on trademarked colors.

The Steps to Getting a Color Trademarked

Step 1: Perform A Comprehensive Search

We will conduct a thorough trademark search to ensure your desired mark doesn’t closely resemble existing registered trademarks. Seeking an attorney's help can aid in identifying both exact matches and "confusingly similar" marks, as they have access to various databases and can discern subtle distinctions.

Step 2: File the Trademark Application

After due diligence, we file a trademark application through the Trademark Electronic Application System (TEAS) or its alternative, TEAS Plus. The choice between these two can impact costs and requirements; we'll provide guidance on this decision and help navigate the complexities.

Step 3: Monitor Your Application

Once the application is submitted, expect a waiting period of 4 to 6 months for feedback from the USPTO. While the initial response might be an approval, there's a possibility of receiving an Office Action or denial, but amendments can typically be made and refiled.

Step 4: Finalize Your Registration

Upon application approval, the trademark will be published in the Trademark Official Gazette for 30 days, allowing potential opposition from other companies. If opposed, the case might proceed to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). If unopposed, a certificate of registration will be issued, but ongoing maintenance is essential to preserve trademark rights.

Xavier Morales, Esq.

About the Author

Xavier Morales, Esq.

Mr. Morales founded his trademark law practice in January 2007 with the goal of providing intellectual property expertise to entrepreneurs and businesses around the country. Since then, he has filed more than 6,000 trademarks with the USPTO. You can learn more about Xavier here.

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