Copyright of a Color

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Dorian_Gray, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. Dorian_Gray

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    Just in case some of you guys don't read engadget... they're protesting a letter sent to them about their use of that t-mobile magneta color. Deutche Telekom (owner of t-mobile) said they own the copyright to that specific RGB color configuration. So engadget made the wallpaper on their site that specific magenta color and made the engadgetmobile into engadget-t-mobile. Should that even be legal? People (or very large corporations) should not be able to own a color! What if apple copyrights white?

    PS... I'm 99% sure that this isn't April fools.
     
  2. The Dragon

    The Dragon New Member

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    I belive that Cadbury-Schweppes has copyrighted the purple that appears on their chocolates.
     
  3. hungpilot

    hungpilot New Member

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    Have you ever heard of IBM blue?
     
  4. dong20

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    Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co.
     
  5. auncut10in

    auncut10in Well-Known Member

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    It is quite common for a company to copyright a color if it is integral to their logo. It just means that a company in a similar field can not use that color as a main color in promoting a like product. For example if you are a hamburger company you probably can't use the McDonalds yellow. McDonalds will claim that you are using the yellow to confuse the consumer that your company is the same as McDonalds. Hope that makes some sense. (I own an advertising agency so pretty familiar with this kind of thing.)
     
  6. ZOS23xy

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    In my mind, stretching boundries of ownership a tad too far.
     
  7. Ineligible

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    No matter what the people claiming copyright say, I would think it would be very difficult to get a court to recognise copyright of a colour per se. (Use of a particular colour in a particular way might be different.) Some degree of original work is required for copyright.

    The fact that something has been registered with the copyright office and that the registration has been accepted does not mean that copyright is valid. (The same is even true of patents granted.) Often a great deal of bluff takes place, with people trying to claim protection they are not really entitled to.

    It's also important to distinguish between copyright and registered designs and trademarks. Some things that aren't copyrightable can be registered as designs or trademarks, but protection granted is more limited. You only infringe on a trademark if the use causes consumer confusion.

    Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co. involved trademark rights, not copyright.
     
  8. Dorian_Gray

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    Well, it just never occurred to me that a color could become intellectual property.

    Me too... Personally I think it's ridiculous, the whole idea. It's just a color.
     
  9. FuzzyKen

    FuzzyKen New Member

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    Color copyrights are very common and are worldwide. There are however limitations on infringement. Color copyrights are limited to commercial use in logos or advertising or "trademarking". Safety-Kleen Corporation paints their service vehicles a really horrible fluorescent yellow. Along with that horrible color they use red and black for lettering and logos. This one god awful "yellow" color is copyrighted. If I were to go out and paint a custom car that color I would not be in infringement of copyright, unless I used the vehicle for advertising of a commercial venture.

    Problems are beginning to take place in this because of the architectural restrictions being placed on corporations by communities and local governments based on "architectural compatibility".

    Home Depot stores are traditionally painted in a certain color scheme, but in Palm Springs, California architectural restrictions have allowed only the signage in the trademarked "orange" colors. The same is true in many locations for everything from telephone stores to fast food outlets.

    Remember that color copyright and the ability to collect or claim infringement is based on usage of the color or colors.

    Real Estate companies are now being forced to change colors of signage because of restrictive homeowners associations. The approved colors (usually browns in Southern California) are limited and ALL Real Estate companies must use these approved signs in the same colors inside certain developments or areas where restrictions are applicable.

    It's confusing but these copyrights and regulations have existed for years.

    anuncut10in may be able to help me on this one, but to the best of my memory the biggest problem with this has been as I remember in India where there they do not honor these agreements. There are companies (or were) using trademarking and logos and one of the largest lawsuits in history as I remember resulted from a restaurant chain in India using the entire McDonalds layout and color palate including the golden arches for their restaurants. This was in a business competing with McDonalds as "fast food" As I remember this was back somewhere in the late 1970's or early 1980's.

    It has it's value.......
     
  10. B_dumbcow

    B_dumbcow New Member

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    I own green. So give me some alfalfa now for using it or I will sue.
     
  11. Dorian_Gray

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    will johnson grass do?:confused:
     
  12. B_dumbcow

    B_dumbcow New Member

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    MooooOOOoOoh! Even better :biggrin1:
     
  13. Principessa

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    I thought Pantone decided color names and in effect owned them? :confused:

     
  14. Dorian_Gray

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    lol.. this is the first time I've ever even heard of Pantone. I google'd it and learned a little I guess. Alot of you raised valid arguments, and some of you could seriously be some corporate lawyers :wink:... But the case about engadgetmobile was that they just used the same color, not in the same fashion or shape. So does that letter from Deutsch Telekom even hold water? I mean it is used in a commercial logo, but it's not advertising the same thing, and the look is completely different than t-mobile's logo.
     
  15. Phil Ayesho

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    Oh fer...

    No ITs NOT legal to copyright a color.
    But that doesn't stop corporations from claiming that they have.

    Because the government does not check copyright filings for accuracy or prior art, you can file a copyright for anything.

    Corporate lawyers do a lot of things that are illegal. For example, in most states, most non-disclosure agreements are illegal. ( if they don't pay you something... its not a legal contract)

    If you take this kind of thing to court, you will ALWAYS win... all you have to do is show that that particular color appeared in internet publications previously to the companies' use of it....

    They can trademark the combination of a color with a specific word, letter phrase or graphic... but in that case its only that particular use in a competing field.

    The standard of proof is that the company has to be able to show in court that you are trading on their reputation. That is either confusing customers as to the company identity, or capitalizing on their market presence.


    The real crime is that these corporation know full well they haven't a legal leg to stand on... but are relying on financial intimidation to get folks to back down without going to court. They can run you into tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees, and drop the case the day before the court date and you have no legal recourse to re-coup expenses.

    I have gotten letters from the family of Martin Luther King claiming that they own the rights to his likeness...

    They don't- you can't own the likeness of a public figure... and anyone with streets and a holiday named after them is clearly a public figure...

    But no one has ever fought the family on the issue... they just back down in the face of high legal costs.


    So, no, you can not legally enforce a copyright of an individual color, alone. But they CAN sue you over it to cost you money.


    However, if you change ONE of the color channels, R G or B by one percent... Problem solved...

    Or- I have found that a very stiffly worded letter in response, explaining the legal issue, and your absolute willingness to not only fight them at any cost, but to sue them for abuse of process, and filing an illegal copyright... is often enough to get them to ignore you.

    Where they will tend to be most aggressive is in any usage that might be seen as trading on their image, or confusing the marketplace...



    But the overarching lesson is this... a conservative estimate that half of all contracts written in the US would not hold up in court.

    It is astonishing how often lawyers include clauses in contracts that they know full well can not be enforced... they just want you to believe they can be, or want the option to sue you simply as a punitive action.
     
  16. dong20

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    Maybe ...

    From a 1995 US Supreme Court ruling.

    Under the Lanham Act, a color can be registered as a trademark. Individual colors, however, cannot be deemed "inherently distinctive," so the registrant must demonstrate that the color has acquired "secondary meaning" in consumers' minds as indicating the source of the registrant's goods

    JUSTICE BREYER in delivering the opinion of a unanimous Court in the matter of QUALITEX CO. v. JACOBSON PRODUCTS CO. (1995):


    The question in this case is whether the Lanham Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act), 15 U.S.C. 1051-1127 (1988 ed. and Supp. V), permits the registration of a trademark that consists, purely and simply, of a color. We conclude that, sometimes, a color will meet ordinary legal trademark requirements. And, when it does so, no special legal rule prevents color alone from serving as a trademark.

    Breyer further held that a color could be trademarked separately from any trade dress protection.


    The rest of what you wrote is merely the real world application. Most people cave before it ever gets to court.
     
  17. mindseye

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    Ineligible made the point earlier in the thread, but it bears repeating: You cannot copyright a color, but you can register color as a trademark.

    Trademark protection is less extensive than copyright protection, and generally requires a higher burden of proof on the part of the complainant. Furthermore, the color can't be inherent to the product itself (e.g., Dole can't trademark the color "yellow" for its bananas, since bananas are yellow.), and there are other restrictions on what can be trademarked.

    Wikipedia has an article on non-traditional trademarks.
     
  18. midlifebear

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    Just to put you all on notice, I have just patented the entire spectrum of visible light. Therefore, if you can see this post, you owe me a penny.

    And if you think that's silly, I know of an American church that legally copyrighted the use of the name The Church of Jesus Christ so that no other Jesus-based faith can get away with using the same five letters in that sequence in any part of the name of their belief system.
     
  19. DC_DEEP

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    I applied for, and received, exclusive rights to the use of zeros and ones.

    All binary computer code, unless licensed by me, is illegal to own, trade, distribute, create, compile, copy, sell.

    But my licensing fees are reasonable. Zeros are $1.00 per hundred-thousand, and ones are $1.10 per hundred-thousand.
     
  20. MASSIVEPKGO_CHUCK

    MASSIVEPKGO_CHUCK Well-Known Member

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    One thing I learned from mixing and matching paint colors- there's really no absolute real color, only perceptions. And trust me, whatever you may think you have as a unique color has probably been done either recently or Ages,ages, ago.
     
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