Can you trademark a colour? Well that depends, for example Cadbury’s famously won a battle with Nestle over the use of its distinctive purple on chocolate items. But that case was all about two companies in the same niche, using the same/similar colour on their packaging.
What about the same colour but in different spheres of business, like motorcycles vs vegan sausages, or phone networks vs insurance? Well new kid on the insurance block Lemonade had a ding-dong with Deutsche Telekom over the use of the colour pink, well a certain shade of magenta/pink. The results are in from France and it’s a win for Lemonade, leaving Deutsche Telekom crying into their Liebfraumilch. Here’s the news from Lemonade;
Lemonade, the insurance company powered by artificial intelligence and behavioral economics, announced it has won a key ruling against Deutsche Telekom over the use of the colour pink in France.
Deutsche Telekom has owned the French trademark on the colour pink, or magenta, in the field of financial services (known as ‘class 36’) since it registered this colour-mark 25 years ago. No longer. In a ruling issued on December 15, 2020, French authorities found that “there is no evidence of genuine use of this mark for the contested services” by Deutsche Telekom, confirming that “the owner of the contested mark should therefore be deprived of his rights.”
The colourful saga started with Lemonade’s June 2019 launch in Germany, when Deutsche Telekom (T-Mobile’s parent company) proclaimed that its dominion over the colour pink extended to insurance, and obtained a court ruling instructing Lemonade to remove the offending colour from all its German assets.
In deference to the court, Lemonade made the colour changes in Germany, but in defiance of Deutsche Telekom, Lemonade set out to challenge the scope of their ‘magenta’ trademark, starting in France and Germany, as well as very validity of their pan-European ‘magenta’ trademark. France is the first of these jurisdictions to issue a decision, and their ruling has broken Deutsche Telekom’s hegemony over pink, marking an important milestone in Lemonade’s campaign to #FreeThePink.
“The French decision hopefully signals a turning point in the battle to stop trademark trolling by Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile,” said Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade CEO and cofounder. “In recent years DT has banned the use of pink by a technology blog in the US, an aspiring watchmaker seeking crowd-funding on Indiegogo, an invoice processor in Holland, a nine person IT shop in England. That’s nuts. When they tried to extend their monopoly over pink to the insurance industry, we felt it was time to fight back. If some brainiac at Deutsche Telekom had invented the colour, their possessiveness would make sense. Absent that, the company’s actions just smack of corporate bully tactics, where legions of lawyers attempt to hog natural resources – in this case a primary colour (It isn’t a primary colour of course – Ed)– that rightfully belongs to everyone.”
Lemonade has been using pink prominently and proudly since its inception in 2015. Its Instagram campaign, which first featured hundreds of everyday objects dunked into pink paint and has since evolved into commissioned works of art celebrating the particular shade of pink (hex code #FF0083), has been viewed by tens of millions. The company’s art publication can be found at the aptly named www.ff0083.com.