Lemonade Beats Deutsche Telekom In French Court Over Use Of The Color Magenta

from the when-life-gives-you-magenta dept

Last year we wrote about a New York insurance company called Lemonade being forced by a German court to cease using the color pink/magenta in its branding in Germany after a dispute with Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile. See, DT has a long, long history of using insane trademarks its been granted for the color magenta to go after all kinds of other companies, whether they’re actually using that same color or not, and regardless of whether they compete in the same marketplace or not. While Lemonade complied with the court, it then took two further steps. First, it released a Chrome browser extension that strips the color pink out of, well, everything in the user’s browser. This was coupled with a #FreeThePink PR campaign. And the, for added measure, Lemonade set out in various European courts to invalidate any claim DT might have to the trademark for the color in the field of financial services.

Well, the first resolution of one of those cases is out and it’s a full win for Lemonade. Note that much of the text in the quotes below is from a press release, but the factual aspects of it still stand.

Deutsche Telekom has owned the French trademark on the color pink, or magenta, in the field of financial services (known as ‘class 36’) since it registered this color-mark 25 years ago. No longer. In a ruling issued on December 15, 2020, French authorities found that “there is no evidence of genuine use of this mark for the contested services” by Deutsche Telekom, confirming that “the owner of the contested mark should therefore be deprived of his rights.”

“The French decision hopefully signals a turning point in the battle to stop trademark trolling by Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile,” said Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade CEO and cofounder. “In recent years DT has banned the use of pink by a technology blog in the US, an aspiring watchmaker seeking crowd-funding on Indiegogo, an invoice processor in Holland, a nine person IT shop in England. That’s nuts. When they tried to extend their monopoly over pink to the insurance industry, we felt it was time to fight back. If some brainiac at Deutsche Telekom had invented the color, their possessiveness would make sense. 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.”

Again, press releases quoting their own subjects in this case, but the points still stand. What’s notable about this is two things. First, DT has gotten away with its bullying over the color magenta, largely successfully, chiefly because nobody ever fights back. As Schreiber notes above, this represents a very rare pushback instead. And, perhaps more importantly, Lemonade also notes that it’s going to pursue this in other European markets as well.

The whole thing is monumentally dumb on the part of DT. To wield a trademark in an industry in which they do not participate in order to smack around small companies over the use of an extremely common color has nothing to do with how trademark laws are supposed to work. If ever there were a trademark bully crying out to get the tables turned on it, it sure is this one. And it’s nice to see Lemonade has gotten its first win.

Filed Under: , ,
Companies: deutsche telekom, lemonade, t-mobile

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Lemonade Beats Deutsche Telekom In French Court Over Use Of The Color Magenta”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Wrong target

I’ve just one concern. Does this in any way discourage DT from engaging in their own flavor of insanity/bullying in any other markets?

If not, then this seems like a semi empty victory. (Lemonade out probably a bunch of resources, and yeah they may have gotten a bit of good PR, but DT unlikely? to change their behavior).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Dealt with this at my last job...

DT is absolutely insane. Don’t dare call your product t-anything, otherwise they send you a cease and desist. We didn’t even operate remotely in the same business space as DT/t-mobile, and the word after the hyphen had absolutely nothing to do with telecom/mobile/cellular/data/etc… They are big bullies!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

since the claims of Deutsche Telekom were found to be misleading / not genuine?

Deutsche Telekom made the claim in German courts that it owned a German trademark on the color magenta in the market of financial services. All parties involved (including Lemonade and the courts) agree that at the time Deutsche Telekom sued Lemonade, they did own that trademark, as issued by the German trademark authority. Further, Deutsche Telekom continues to own that trademark in Germany (though they no longer own it in France).

On what basis, then, do you argue Deutsche Telekom mislead or made false claims?

Ehud Gavron (profile) says:


I apologize for only having 3 color bits, so I can only describe 8 colors as different. For me "magenta" is pink.

I wonder if Pink, the singer, would have had to change her name, because clearly she’s a telecommunication company, competes with T-Mobile (/Deutsche Telekom), and causes undoubted customer confusion in the industry.

Government-provided monopolies (e.g. trademarks) are a godsend to prevent this from happening.

I can’t personally imagine my personal horror if I went to buy a T-Mobile phone and ended up with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW1dbiD_zDk

Thank you, French Government. USPTO, are you listening? If not, check out the link.


Hugo S Cunningham (profile) says:

Magenta or pink? (actually both)

I was a bit confused by the interchangeable use of pink (pale red) and magenta (aka "fuchsia"), a light purple
But "Lemonade"s press release clarifies this, showing that DT has registered five distinct colors, ranging from pink through magenta (fuchsia), to something even more bluish.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...