The Color Magenta, Or How T-Mobile Thinks It Owns A General Color

from the ownership-society dept

You might think that throwing a word like “magenta” into the Techdirt search engine wouldn’t get you any results. But you would be wrong about that and you’d be wrong entirely because of T-Mobile and its parent company Deutsche Telekom. See, Telekom has trademark rights in several countries for a very specific shade of magenta. And with those trademarks, Telekom rather enjoys threatening other businesses that dare to use anything that remotely looks like magenta in their trade dress, whether the color in question is actually magenta or not, and regardless of whether the other company is even a competitor or not.

And Telekom is still at it to the present. A German court has informed a startup insurance company out of New York called Lemonade that it must cease to use the shade of pink it’s been using in it’s branding for three years.

New York-based Lemonade is a 3-year-old company that lives completely online and mostly focuses on homeowners and renter’s insurance. The company uses a similar color to magenta — it says it’s “pink” — in its marketing materials and its website. But Lemonade was told by German courts that it must cease using its color after launching its services in that country, which is also home to T-Mobile owner Deutsche Telekom. Although the ruling only applies in Germany, Lemonade says it fears the decision will set a precedent and expand to other jurisdictions such as the U.S. or Europe.

“If some brainiac at Deutsche Telekom had invented the color, their possessiveness would make sense,” Daniel Schreiber, CEO and co-founder of Lemonade, said in a statement. “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 color—that rightfully belong to everyone.”

Here is the branding for Lemonade. Judge for yourself whether you think it is somehow confusing with T-Mobile.

Does that branding use a pinkish purple? Yes, yes it does. How close is that color to that trademarked by Telekom? I have no earthly idea, nor do I much care. T-Mobile provides cellular service, whereas Lemonade provides insurance services. Those aren’t in the same market. And whatever distinction Telekom might claim that its magenta color has earned, that distinction certainly doesn’t magically make any of this confusing.

And, separately, it’s still rather galling that a company like Telekom can somehow own the rights to a color in a way that causes it to think nobody else, full stop, can use it. And, yet, Lemonade complied with the court’s instructions. But not without making another move.

Although Lemonade has complied with the ruling by removing its pink color from marketing materials in Germany, it’s also trying to turn the legal matter into an opportunity. The company today began throwing some shade in social media under the hashtag “#FreeThePink,” though a quick check on Twitter shows it’s gained little traction thus far: Schreiber, the company’s CEO, holds the top tweet under “#FreeThePink” with 13 retweets and 42 likes.

Lemonade also filed a motion today with the European Union Intellectual Property Office, or EUIPO, to invalidate Deutsche Telekom’s magenta trademark.

It would be absolutely delicious if Lemonade ended up getting Telekom’s trademark invalidated. Free the pink.

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Companies: deutsche telekom, lemonade, t-mobile

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Comments on “The Color Magenta, Or How T-Mobile Thinks It Owns A General Color”

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Tanner Andrews (profile) says:

pink is the exclusive property of the Susan G Komen Foundation

Really? So. I guess a lot of the ladies are going to have to dye their nipples. No big deal, though there may be some scuffles wherever people apply for the enforcement jobs.

More worrisome will be those homeowners who bought Owens-Corning rolled fiberglass insulation. Not only does fiberglass irritate skin, but I doubt that people will be eager to have jobs of crawling into attics to check for infringement.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

That's not magenta.

The T-Mobile color is not magenta, but fuchsia, not the color of fuchsia flowers, rather that awful pink that Wikipedia identifies as French fuchsia.

And if T-Mobile thinks they own that color, I’m pretty sure that Victoria’s Secret’s lawyers will have some words with them, since they believe they own all shades of PINK.

Now that would be a popcorn-worthy slugfest.

TripMN says:

Re: Re:

Then you are late to the game. Magenta has been around as a well known and specific color as long as modern 4-color printing has been around. The CMYK referred to in 4-color printing is Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK.

T-Mobile’s "magenta" is not the same color… but they probably think it sounds more <insert adjective that makes them feel good about themselves> than pink.

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

Anonymous Coward says:

There should be a rule maybe a company can trademark a colour,
but only the exact shade of that colour,
also can only use that trademark in one industry,maybe telecom,s ,phones,
no one is going to go to an insurance company and ask for a phone line to be installed
or a new phone plan.
i think coco cola owns a shade of the color red for the sale of soft drinks,
it does not mean someone can not sell a red phone or a red car .

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: State regulated colors

I know one exception, school-bus yellow. In (I think) all fifty states, only school buses are allowed to be painted that color.

Curiously, fire-engine red is not regulated, and not all fire-engines use the same color of red. Nor is safety orange.

And ambulances couldn’t have red crosses thanks to successful litigation from Red Cross. Our ambulances had orange-red crosses in the seventies until we invented the international asterisk of life to replace it. The NHTSA intentionally allows the Star of Life serve as an open-access get-your-medical-attention-here sign (which was the whole point of the Red Cross, a century ago.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: State regulated colors

Well in a way the school bus yellow idea makes sense…

Fire trucks and Ambulances don’t make a bunch of stops on their way to their final destination.

Fire trucks and Ambulances also have sirens, which alert people both ahead and behind them thus reducing the need for an standardised color.

Finally, I’m not sure if this is the same in every states, but many states have max speed limit laws for school buses. Some (not sure if all) school buses even have physical limiters installed to prevent them from going above the limit.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Purple is so gay!

I’m pretty sure purple is only connected to LGBT+ interests in context. Tinky-winky developed a gay-associated fanbase after Jerry Falwell outed him in 1999 (maybe informed by a letter to the editor from Andy Medhurst in ’97). Gays may signal each other with purple but not all purple is gay.

The religious right and the uninformed like to associate rainbows with LGBT+ interests even though only the specific six-color flag sequence (????️‍????) is so related. This excluds Nyancat, 80s-era Apple Computer and half of the 70s. Those things might be gay, but only coincidentally. Same with pink disco suits.

Rainbow Dash, however, is totally pansexual. She’ll bang anything and anyone that moves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

"There should be a rule maybe a company can trademark a colour,
but only the exact shade of that colour"

Since the resource is limited, there would have to be some way to track who owns what, where, and possibly how. I guess that would have to be something like the UN or maybe an org like ICANN.
Look like a hole in which to pour money.

TripMN says:

Re: Re: Re:

There aren’t enough colors in the standard digital color spectrum to allow for every business in certain verticals to have one.

Therefore I propose that we force companies to use a color and a shape. We can call them "logos" (a term I just made up) and we can build laws around them that make sure they aren’t too similar to be confusing.

Problem solved!

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Magenta on the color spectrum

I think Bob was trying to say that there is no wavelength of light that our eyes see as magenta, rather it is a combination of red and blue wavelengths that our brain has to interpret.

Clearly (as with the Fuchsia plant) magenta color appears in nature, and our brains see it. It means you have to combine diodes to create a magenta laser beam.

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