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.