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.

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


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 7:57pm

    Here in the US pink is the exclusive property of the Susan G Komen Foundation, or so they want you to believe.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tanner Andrews (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 8:17pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 13 Nov 2019 @ 4:10am

      Re:

      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.

      Time to buy shares in a company that makes those "FBI - Female Boob Inspector" t-shirts :)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 12 Nov 2019 @ 8:19pm

    It's enough to make me want to drop T-Mobile as my carrier of choice.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Rico R. (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 9:19pm

    Trademark Infringement: Don't try this at home, kids!

    And now, I'll be waiting for Nickelodeon to be sued by T-Mobile for having a character both named and colored Magenta on Blue's Clues!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 1:55pm

      Re: Trademark Infringement: Don't try this at home, kids!

      I went to check if that show was even still on the air...

      That reboot looks horrible.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 12 Nov 2019 @ 9:24pm

    The color what?

    T-who?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 9:25pm

    Is there any doubt now how much better off the world would be if we could send these corporations to Mars with their schoolyard squabbles?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    pink stink, 12 Nov 2019 @ 10:54pm

    link sink fink

    dink, twink, shlink, trink, rink, allink, mink, gink, nink.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 11:38pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 12 Nov 2019 @ 11:46pm

      Oooh hex codes.

      The T-Mobile brand color is #ed008c

      If they want to claim that #ed008c is a T-Mobile brand, well, I guess. So long as #ed008b, #ed008d, #ed018c, #ec018c and #ee018c are all still available for public use.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 1:40am

        Re: Oooh hex codes.

        ... And its only trademarked for services and goods in the telecommunications market. Which Lemonade does not.

        So this lawsuit by Telekom is completely bogus in every aspect.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Oblate (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 11:00am

        Re: Oooh hex codes.

        T-Mobile's magenta is #e20074 according to the CSS on their website. Lemonade's color is #c94bac, according to the picture above. This gives a color distance of 96.9, which seems significant. When the two colors are next to each other the difference is clear.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Nov 2019 @ 11:48pm

      Re: That's not magenta.

      Excuse me, are you clinically insane?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 1:25am

    The first time I came across magenta as an individual colour, it was because it was one of the 8 named available colours on the ZX Spectrum in 1982. Clearly this means that Sir Clive Sinclair should now own T-Mobile's marketing department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      TripMN, 13 Nov 2019 @ 6:14am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 7:21am

        Re: Re:

        Yes, and just imagine the hilarity that would ensue after printer manufacturers are forced to filter specific colors from output.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 13 Nov 2019 @ 1:50am

    I actually approve wholeheartedly of T-Mobile's actions here in working to block companies other than T-Mobile from using this 'magenta' color.

    After all, if I saw this Lemonade company using that shade of magenta oh-so-strongly associated with T-Mobile, heaven forfend, I might mistake them for thieving bastards!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:38pm

      Re:

      Right after my nephew is done suing tmobil for infringing on the color of his go cart, my granddaughter is going after this lemonade company for confusing her lemonade customers!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 13 Nov 2019 @ 3:18am

    Prior Art?

    Rocky Horror Picture Show featured Magenta earlier.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 4:40am

    Just think of all those radiation warning signs that are yellow and magenta that will need to be replaced. Then again, T-Mobile should be treated the same as any radiation area...avoided.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 4:54am

    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 .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 5:55am

      Re:

      That is many shades of wrong, AC. No one should own colours. Ever.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 10:55am

        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.)

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:16pm

          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.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 7:57am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        TripMN, 13 Nov 2019 @ 10:01am

        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!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Russ Kinner, 13 Nov 2019 @ 7:12am

    I wonder if we will need to change the color bar test pattern? It has Magenta.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 7:23am

    That law suit is definitely off color.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 7:25am

    Okay, I can see it as slightly confusing because it uses cellphones and a similar color to T-mobile but trademarking a color by itself should be disallowed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 8:08am

    You know you've fucked up when Stuart Semple adds you to his no-no list.

    Pink(tm): you can't get it if you're T-Mobile (I do not know if you can get it if you're Anish Kapoor)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bob, 13 Nov 2019 @ 11:41am

    your brain and eyes deceive you.

    Crazy since Magenta isnt even on the visible color spectrum.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:21pm

      Re: your brain and eyes deceive you.

      If poe's law, good job. If not...

      ... clearly you have no idea how printers work.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:40pm

        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.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:43pm

      Re: your brain and eyes deceive you.

      My friend's last picture of him waving under a rainbow before he died that same day clearly has a band of purple/magenta in the outermost band. I'd say he owns that color. RIP Jimmy.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 13 Nov 2019 @ 2:56pm

    The Color Out of Space

    Magenta is also the eponymous Color Out Of Space in the new Lovecraft / Nicholas Cage vehicle, at least according to the trailer.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Nov 2019 @ 5:19pm

    If it helps, Cadbury claims to own the colour purple.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2019 @ 6:09am

    It's funny - people running around claiming to own things.
    There was a lady in spain who claimed to own the sun and planned on charging everyone.

    https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1333776/Spanish-woman-Angeles-Duran-claims-owns-s un--plans-start-charging-ALL-users.html

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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