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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

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  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.

#copyright #infringement #OwnaColour #Glidden #trademark #colour #JudeStewart #ColorampDesign #UPS #brands #Cadbury #inspiration #patent



PRINT (founded 1940) is where creative people gather to inspire and build design dialogue. Perpetually curious about everything design, we report on, curate and celebrate visual culture, the makers of that culture and the expression of graphic design in all its forms and mediums.  


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