Colours convey a signal to consumers, which is why businesses seek to protect the shades of colour they use and register them as colour trademarks. The scope of the protection afforded by a colour trademark is still in dispute.
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London - www.grprainer.com/en conclude: Colours trigger associations with certain products in the minds of consumers. They create a high recognition value. That is why two financial institutions have been arguing over the use of a specific shade of red for years.
One bank had the shade of colour in question registered as a colour trademark in 2007. The other bank makes use of a shade of red that is almost identical and thus requested that the Bundespatentamt (German Federal Patent Office) cancel the colour trademark. On June 25, 2015, the Bundesgerichtshof (Federal Court of Justice) also had to become involved in the dispute between the parties. The case centred on whether this particular shade of red could be used for sponsoring activities, i.e. it concerned the scope of the protection afforded by a colour trademark. The Bundesgerichtshof’s ruling is not expected until September, whereas the Bundespatentamt is expected to reach a decision in July.
Trademarks, including colour trademarks, that enable a company’s products to be distinguished from competitors are worth protecting. However, for this to happen, it needs to be proven that a large majority of consumers associates a specific product of a business with a particular shade of colour. Moreover, the trademark protection then only applies to certain industries or product ranges.
Trademark protection is an important factor for businesses, because the level of recognition among consumers can be attributed to the trademark. Registering a trademark is meant to prevent other market players from sharing in the product’s success and thereby establishing themselves as competitors.
If trademark rights are violated, the company concerned can raise claims for damages. Of course, it is equally important to avoid infringing the trademark rights of other companies. This can sometimes prove to be especially challenging in the case of businesses that operate internationally, as the jurisprudence of the various national jurisdictions involved has to be taken into account as well. Businesses can turn to lawyers who are competent in the fields of trademark law and competition law for assistance.