T-Mobile Sues AT&T Subsidiary Over Its Use Of Magenta

Comparison of AIO and T-Mobile's uses of similar colors. See below for larger version.

Comparison of AIO and T-Mobile’s uses of similar colors. See below for larger version.

Chances are you probably don’t even know about AT&T’s Aio Wireless prepaid service, as it’s currently only available in a handful of markets. But the folks at T-Mobile have sued the subsidiary now before the world gets confused by two phone companies that use similar colors.

In a lawsuit [PDF] filed last week in a U.S. District Court in Texas, T-Mobile alleges “trademark dilution, trademark infringement and unfair competition with regard to T-Mobile’s trademark rights to the color magenta in the field of telecommunications services.”

T-Mobile claims that Aio was a deliberate and immediate response to its decision earlier this year to do away with phone subsidies and allow customers to get wireless plans without two-year contracts.

From the complaint (emphasis in original):

The dominant telecommunications provider, AT&T, responded by setting up a wholly owned subsidiary, AIO, which — out of all of the colors in the universe — chose magenta to begin promoting no-contract wireless communications services in direct competition with T-Mobile.

T-Mo’s Parent company Deutsche Telekom has been using magenta as a trademark since the early ’90s. “Since that time, DT has used the Magenta Mark consistently and prominently in its marketing and promotional materials throughout the world,” reads the suit, which calls the color, “a cornerstone
of its brand identity” that “has become an internationally recognized symbol of DT in the world of telecommunications.”

In 2002, T-Mobile USA launched, complete with a magenta logo. “The Magenta Mark has been a unifying source identifier and theme in T-Mobile’s advertising from the beginning,” claims the plaintiff, “and T-Mobile has used it in every major advertising campaign through the years.”

T-Mobile backs up its claim with various U.S. Trademark Registrations demonstrating that it indeed loves and identifies with magenta. It also provides anecdotal evidence like the time a massive magenta banner was flown at the New York Stock Exchange to commemorate T-Mobile’s listing on the exchange, or when the T-Mobile-sponsored 2011 NBA All-Star Game featured a “magenta” carpet instead of the traditional red carpet.

The suit points out that the coverage map used by Aio does not use the orange color associated with parent company AT&T “but instead uses in its stores and on its website a magenta coverage map that is strikingly similar in color to the one used by T-Mobile.”

Here is a comparison. On the top left is an in-store coverage map for Aio. Top right is the T-Mobile coverage map from its website. The image at the bottom is AIO’s coverage map from its website:
aiocoveragesite

The lawsuit seeks a preliminary and permanent injunction against Aio’s use of magenta, along with the destruction of all magenta-colored materials and signage for Aio, and of course there are always unspecified damages and legal fees.

UPDATE: A rep for Aio tells Consumerist, “T-Mobile needs an art lesson. Aio doesn’t do magenta.”

[via DSLreports.com]