Apparently, T-Mobile has trademarked the color magenta and has even sued one other company over their use of the color in an advertisement. Um, what? In other news, we’re looking into trademarking kitty cats and science. [ColourLovers]


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  1. Dead Wrestlers Society says:

    This is the craziest thing I’ve heard since The Donald tried to copyright the words “You’re fired.”

  2. realjen01 says:

    or when paris tried to copyright “that’s hot”

  3. Bladefist says:

    I don’t blame them. Whoever let them do it is the ones to blame.

  4. LadyNo says:

    Not that uncommon. IBM blue, Coke red, Starbucks green, all trademarked. They can’t stop me from using the color at all, but I can’t use it for a competing product in an attempt to make it look similar or affiliated.


  5. forever_knight says:

    if i didn’t love t-mobile so much, i would call them crazy.

  6. MeOhMy says:

    It’s kind of odd that in the quotes in the link it just says “magenta” and not something like “T-Mobile Magenta.” Otherwise, as Ladyno points out, a business trademarking a specific color is pretty standard practice.

  7. SadSam says:

    Tiffany blue is another protected color.

  8. Buran says:

    You can make an ad using a slightly different hue and I don’t think they can do much to you unless you’re blatantly trying to rip them off. Or if it’s a parody.

  9. MountainCop says:

    Well, I’m going to trademark pants.

  10. Skiffer says:

    So color-blindness can be a valid defense against copyright infringement? Does that mean I can use tone-deafness as a defense against the RIAA?

  11. Fuzz says:

    Patenting the color is one thing . . but if you look at the website, it can easily be argued that their “t” in Magenta along with the squares constitutes copyright infringement.


  12. Framling says:


    Copyright != Trademark

  13. Macroy says:

    I’m more confused over the site’s inconsistency with color/colour. Check out the URL!

    Which is it?! Make up your mind. :(

  14. liquisoft says:

    Owning the color Magenta would be tragic, since Magenta is one of the 4 colors used in common printing (CMYK).

  15. tedyc03 says:

    I think that trademarking a color is perfectly acceptable under trademark law. Presuming that the same color is used with particular logos or advertising, trademarking it would be understandable.

    Human beings by nature are creatures of habit, and they are reliant upon the recognition of their color scheme by consumers to sell their product just as much as they’re reliant upon their logo or their font choice. While suing someone for using the color for some benign purpose wold be foolhardy and make them look like jerks, suing someone who was purporting to be them or who was selling a similar service that could be confused with t-mobile would be reasonable. Unfortunately for them, damages are impossible unless the infringed-upon item is registered, thus necessitating the registration of a trademark.

    And before anyone sees fit to flame me, I did a search of the USPTO (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) where I identified T-Mobile has holding the following trademarks containing the word “magenta”: 78667237, 78667232, 78667235, 78668214, 78500056, 78667211, 78668225, 78667228, 78668208, and 78668222. All of them claim magenta as PART of the mark, but specify it is the color when included in the T of T-Mobile. The internet is a powerful tool…

  16. howie_in_az says:

    @public enemy #1: So theoretically I could copyright “you’re laid off”, “we’re going to have to lay you off”, and variations thereof and obtain the utmost job security?

  17. not_seth_brundle says:

    Hint: if you don’t know the difference (or even that there is a difference) between trademark and copyright, you probably aren’t qualified to blog about intellectual property law.

  18. Yeah, they’d better have a lot of lawyers in the bullpen because they’re probably going to have to sue Everyone Who Has Ever Printed Anything With Ink Ever. As LIQUISOFT pointed out, Magenta is the big ‘M’ in the full-color process CMYK. So, you’d better ditch the Magenta cartidge in your Epson inkjet printers, or else!!

  19. scarletvirtue says:

    Well, since Consumerist is trademarking kitty cats and science, I call puppy dogs! :-P

  20. DeeJayQueue says:

    I’d be willing to bet that T-Mo has trademarked a specific shade of magenta, since color names are pretty subjective things. Trademarking “Fuschia” or “Perrywinkle” is kinda tough, since even printing the color on different printers will yield different results.

    Usually they go for a PMS shade, for instance, Nickelodeon uses PMS 130 for their orange, and Johnson and Johnson uses PMS 185 for their red. T-Mo probably found a PMS they liked and trademarked the color so that competing businesses couldn’t use it. That’s not to say that you can’t use the same PMS color to open an orange stand or something. The thing is though that every year they add more colors to the list, by now there are thousands, so the odds of you wanting to use that exact shade and not being able to get something similar are slim to none.

  21. Eilonwynn says:


    All kinds of companies have trademarked all kinds of purple. Especially in the age of pantone, it’s not that hard.

  22. royal72 says:

    good luck with that one t-mobile, considering every piece of printed material in this world has magenta in it by four-color process printing (cymk). perhaps a class action lawsuit for public domain is order. i could use $5 from t-mobile for lunch tomorrow.

  23. Her Grace says:

    The lack of differentiation between trademark and copyright in the comments is not surprising, but it is depressing.

  24. swalve says:


    Every company that had a color logo and/or a color combination (like the Bears’ Blue and Orange) most likely has trademarked that combo in conjunction with the business they’re in. Why should competitors be able to confuse the public with a misleading logo?

    Golden arches, Big Blue, What can Brown do for you, etc.

  25. dicus says:

    From the USPTO website:
    “Attorney of Record Joan L. Long
    Priority Date April 15, 2004
    Prior Registrations 2282432
    Description of Mark The color Magenta and Grey are claimed as a feature of the mark. The color magenta appears in the letter “T” and the color grey appears in the word “Mobile” and the squares.

    When a mark like T-Mobile or Coke becomes famous, it is afforded a greater degree of protection. Many companies have trademark colors like Home Depot Orange. It covers only the specific color and its use in advertising for related products or services. It does not limit the use of magenta in printing. Trademarking a color is a common practice. Companies can trademark just about anything they want, including smells, colors, images, designs, and sounds. I think it was Wilson that had tennis balls packaged in canisters that, when opened, smelled like fresh cut grass. That can be trademarked.

  26. RumorsDaily says:

    If you want to learn about TRADEMARK (not copyright) read up on the Supreme Court decision that authorized/acknowledged the practice:


  27. rjflyn says:

    Its like the state of Michigan they have trademarked the color they paint their Highway patrol cars. No one can legally use that color.


  28. burgundyyears says:

    @rjflyn: Michigan doesn’t have a highway patrol. It’s the Michigan State Police. ;)

    /Michigander mode off

  29. Balisong says:

    I think Cadbury recently sued some company for using a similar purple to what’s on their wrappers. Cadbury lost. So, um…dumb move T-Mobile.

  30. ziegs says:

    This isn’t really anything new. The supreme court has held since the Qualitex case in 1995 that color can meet the legal requirements for trademark under the Lanham Act if it has taken on a secondary meaning. The case can be read up on over [] as well as on wikipedia ([]).

    Whether or not T-Mobile’s magenta has taken on a secondary meaning is another issue (I don’t think it has), but that will get sorted out by the lawyers soon enough.

  31. TheSeeker says:

    This is true…I “heard” that Intel has to change all their Centrino graphics away from that fancy colour or else big trouble.

  32. TBT says:

    I remember asking my IP Law prof about this…he told me that the bulletins where they print proposed trademark registrations (including those for colors) are printed in black and white…

  33. wesrubix says:

    Microsoft is very strict about the colors you can use on their Microsoft Certified Professional and Engineer logos.

    A hospital I used to do graphic design consulting for in the Boston area is very strict about what color they use in their logo. (They specified the pantone. They were not messing around.)

    So this is just a reversal of the principal. T-Mobile doesn’t want some other company forming like P-Mobile and making a penis-shaped silhouette with the same magenta they use. So it’s a matter of protecting your image.

  34. msgotrox says:

    I think kitty cats and science were already trademarked by Erwin Schroedinger.

    /lame science humor