• PrintMag

Can You Own a Color?

Color-fans can now channel their fascination into a worthy cause: OwnaColour.com, sponsored by Glidden Paint, is auctioning off shades of the digital rainbow for charity. For a $2 donation to UNICEF (or more if you wish), you can select and name your very own shade. OwnaColour also provides real-time infographics tracking favorite shades by gender, country and so forth. (Thanks to James Hirschfeld for clueing me in.)

I love the idea – cut to me, bee-lining it to buy the world’s most eccentric shade – but it also got me thinking: can you actually buy colors? Not too long ago I blogged here about International Klein Blue, a patented shade by artist and agent provocateur Yves Klein. Today’s post explores other real-world examples of companies and people trying to do just that.

The case illustrates a classic way one can “own” a color: trademark a particular shade in a given industry or product category, fund an IP-litigation firm handsomely, and a particular shade can indeed be exclusively yours. Just ask UPS about their brown, McDonald’s about their red-and-yellow, or Coca-Cola about its signature red.

Other eye-opening takes on the idea of owning a color: BoingBoing’s Xeni Jardin used the Cadbury Purple flak as an opportunity to suss out more color-themed trademark controversies. She (and her commenters) unearthed some great ones, including several non-traditional patent cases like pink insulation (Owens-Corning), NBC’s “ding ding ding” sound (Reg. No. 523,616), and plumeria-scented sewing thread (Reg. No. 1,639,128).

Our good buddies at Under Consideration’s Brand New also have eagle-eyes for this sort of thing. My two faves aren’t color-related infringements per se, but still thumping-good reads: IHOP v. IHOP (Prayer v. Pancakes) and the Rat City Roller Derby vs. Starbucks.

Any stellar examples of corporate color-owning we missed?

Resources Recommended by Imprint

  1. Available now: Print Magazine’s Guest Art Director Digital Collection

  2. Milton Glaser and Mirko Ilic give a live DesignCast on The Design of Dissent. Register now!

  3. Get an inside look at logo design from Chermayeff & Geismar

  4. Design TV: Improve your design skills with help from experts in the design industry.

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