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4 Comments on "Prince’s purple: without rain or color trademark protection"

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My previous career was in the paint industry, so colors were a primary focus of my life for many years. I never really considered whether colors could be trademarked before I read this article, even though I spent a lot of time creating my own formulas for paint colors. The tint machine, which is used to add colorants to tint the neutral paint base, has a library of standardized colorant formulas for each one of the company’s paint colors. Any measurements that are manually entered or scanned in with a color reader are considered “custom” since they deviate from the… Read more »
The Qualitex [1] case shows how color can be trademarked in a specific circumstance. In Qualitex, the Supreme Court held that colors can be trademarked if distinctive or, if not distinctive, if it can demonstrate “secondary meaning”. The Court held that a color could never be inherently distinctive so that leaves only the avenue of “secondary meaning” for an applicant to obtain a color trademark. A mark has “secondary meaning” if there is “mental association . . . between the alleged mark and a single source of the product.” [2] Essentially, where a color is widely recognized as symbolic of… Read more »
Color trademark is a very interesting topic because unlike other marks, color cannot be distinguished from other service marks like word mark if it is used in different circumstances. In re: Thrifty, Inc., 274 F.3d 1349 (Fed. Cir. 2001). In other words, color marks are not distinctive but descriptive. As the article says, in order for the color mark to be protected, it needs to establish secondary meaning by showing “that the consumers associate the mark to the source of the product or services.” My first response to this establishing secondary meaning was this standard could be very arbitrary because… Read more »
According to the article, the color has been used and associated with different singers, entities and brands. Also, Prince did not use this particular shade of purple on all his merchandise or albums. The merchandise uses different shades of purple and his other albums use orange, white, yellow, and red shades. Most of the time, purple accompanies the Love Symbol mark which is already owned and used by the Estate. However, as in Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc., 514 U.S. 159 (1995), Love Symbol #2 “identifies and distinguishes” any merchandise or product related to Prince and his music.… Read more »