from the purple-productivity-eaters dept
While trademarks being granted for colors strikes me as a special brand of silly in general, there really must be something about the color purple and its associated shades that sparks protectionism. Purple/magenta has been the subject of trademark bullying from several entities in the past, including CraftsAmericana Group, T-Mobile, and Cadbury. What moves the needle on most of these stories from "trademark-gone-too-far" to "trademark bullying" is that these actions tend to be brought against other groups that aren't even operating within the same industry as the offended. That's key in trademark disputes where, in most cases, the two parties must be competing with one another for infringement to occur.
Well, T-Mobile's parent company, Deutsche Telekom, appears to be at it again, sending out threat letters to OXY, makers of a soon-to-be-launched smartwatch, all because the startup dared to use the color magenta in its logo. The company explained to the public why it had to change all of its branding on its website.
Let’s start at the beginning. On August 19th 2015, we filed a trademark for our OXY logo (see the image below) with the Intellectual Properties Office of the United Kingdom. Our registration included the colors pink (#E91E63) and blue-grey (#455A64) and we made sure that, within the classes we filed for (class 9 and class 25), there were no other trademarks interfering with our classification.OXY states that the notices it received from HLI LLP prohibit it from disclosing the reason for the opposition but that anyone looking into the matter between it and Deutsche Telekom would be able to guess why. That's true, with a brief review of the prior OXY logo and that of Deutsche Telekom.
On November 3rd, 16 days before we expected the trademark to become official, we received a ‘notice of threatened opposition’ concerning our pending trademark. According to the IPO, it was issued by Deutsche Telekom AG. In addition to the official notice, we received a relatively 'urgent' sounding email from Telekom’s lawyer firm, Hogan Lovells International LLP.
So, yeah, magenta again. But not really, as OXY registered its mark using a shade of pink, not magenta, and that difference means that holy shit can we all agree that trademarking colors like this is dumb now? OXY goes on to note that Deutsche Telekom has opposed the trademarks of other companies over the color magenta, but that at least most of the time its targets were in some way competing with it.
While it is debatable whether or not this behaviour is fair, the above mentioned entities (except Engadget) were arguably in direct competition with Deutsche Telekom AG. Plus, Deutsche Telekom AG is by far not the only company owning a color-related trademark and they are also not alone in filing corresponding lawsuits. But why did they want us to change our logo? We are making a smartwatch - nothing that would eventually compete with Telekom’s products and services.That distinction would likely mean that OXY had a good case to defend itself on the merits. Unfortunately, as is the case in too many of these trademark bullying stories, fear and lack of resources made the smarter decision for OXY to simply be to cave and go through the hassle of changing all of its logo and marketing material to remove the offending pink/magenta.
After a few hours, we got very valuable feedback from our external advisors and started to slowly understand what was going on. Since we didn’t have the financial resources to fight Deutsche Telekom AG on this matter, and because we also didn’t want to just ignore them, we basically had two options left: We could either negotiate with Telekom to find a price for using the old logo, or we could change everything.All in the name of trademark, built to keep customers from being confused, while instead being used simply to push small new businesses around for no valid reason. Yay.
Last weekend, we had to change all logos and colors of the OXY brand, which included modifying over 25,000 image files and countless other design related properties. Besides substituting the colors in most of our design elements, we had to update all our social media channels, our website and our upcoming Indiegogo page. As you can probably imagine, it took us a while, and we didn’t really enjoy doing it.