Trademark registration is one of the primary methods by which a person may seek intellectual property protection. Most people would ordinarily opt for trademark registration to protect a symbol, name, word, image, or logo. However, what most people do not realize is that in certain circumstances, colours can be trademarked as well.
It should be noted that trademark registration for colours is situational. This is because there is a finite number of colours which exist. Therefore, it would not be feasible for every colour to be trademarked. Nevertheless, when used appropriately, trademark registration for a colour can be a valuable tool which helps any business owner receive adequate intellectual property protection.
Reasons for Trademark Registration for a Colour
Many brand owners opt to have a colour trademarked because the colour represents part of the brand’s identity. Customers often associate a brand or company with visuals such as images, logos, and even colours. They might even recognize a brand simply by looking at the colour of its products’ packaging.
Some unscrupulous figures might seek to deceive customers by using that colour and misleading them into thinking that such a product is of the brand with which the colour is associated. Trademark registration for that colour can prevent this from happening.
Brand owners who use a particular colour or colour combination to market their brand in a manner which is seldom used can also benefit from trademark registration. In these cases, the brand’s identity is not represented by that colour. However, the colour’s rare method of use makes it unlikely that any external parties would be using that same colour as such. After due verification that no one else is using that colour for the same purpose, a brand owner can seek trademark registration and claim rights over that colour in relation to the brand.
Colour Trademarks and Products
Colour trademarks do not apply to all commercial uses of that colour. Only the products related to the colour which the brand has trademarked will be protected. This means that brands of other industries may use that same colour for franchise licensing or any other commercial purpose even if that colour has been trademarked.
According to many countries’ trademark laws, functional colours cannot be trademarked. A functional colour may either be defined as a colour which aids in the function of the product in question or one which indicates specific qualities of that product. The same is true of colours which allow or prevent the entrance of light, are used for safety purposes, or are natural by-products of manufacturing processes.
Only colours which have acquired secondary meaning can be trademarked. Secondary meaning arises after a brand or company owner uses that colour over an extended duration in conjunction with the brand and its products. This duration lasts for as long as it takes authorities to determine that the colour has indeed acquired a secondary meaning. Doing so will make the colour distinctive in the eyes of the general public.
Trademark Registration for a Colour
When applying for trademark registration for a colour, an applicant must provide the following: a colour image of the trademark, a claim stating that the colour is one of the trademark’s defining features, the full name of the colour, and a colour location statement. A colour location statement names the colour and states the location on the trademark where it can be found. The applicant’s registration will usually be accepted if all items mentioned are present.
Trademark registration for a single colour can sometimes be possible. However, due to the nature of single colours, such trademark registration is often more difficult than it is for colour combinations. Trademark registration for a single colour will usually require the colour to be able to be represented precisely and clearly. It may also be helpful for an applicant to submit the colour’s code when submitting the application. Doing so may help with expediting the registration process.
When Colour Trademark Registration Might Be Denied
One key point associated with trademark registration for a colour is that of commonality. Sometimes, intellectual property authorities might deny a brand the trademarking of a colour because that colour is too commonly used in its industry. The prevention of that colour’s use by other brands in the industry could have far-reaching negative effects throughout the sector.
Those who attempt to register a range of shades of colour will also be denied. They are to specify a code for each specific shade to be registered. Allowing trademark registration for a range of shades leaves room for ambiguity. Others may be able to contest the registration even if they ordinarily would have had no right to do so. Additionally, some of the shades may be functional colours and thus unable to be trademarked.
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.