Cadbury’s purple reign puts ‘colour marks’ in spotlight
A High Court judgment which has protected Cadbury’s use of a specific shade of purple has highlighted the dangers and uncertainties that businesses need to be aware of when updating their corporate logo or brand, according to a leading trademark lawyer at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds.
After a four-year battle, the confectionary giant has this week won its legal battle with Nestle in over its use of Pantone 2685C, the shade of purple used on the packaging of a range of its products including Dairy Milk.
Nestle claimed that colours should not be protected under trademark, but the High Court has subsequently ruled the shade has been synonymous with Cadbury for almost a century and that colours are capable “of being signs”.
Joanne Bone, a Partner and expert in trademark law at Irwin Mitchell, has acted and advised on cases in relation to ‘colour marks’ – when businesses have looked to adopt a colour but were blocked due to existing legal restrictions.
Commenting on the Cadbury case, she said: “It may not be an area which is widely reported on very often, but organisations have been able to register colours for a number of years.
“Like Cadbury, BP has a number of rights in place in relation to the specific shade of green which is linked to their brand. However, as this case and other scenarios have shown in the past, this can prove to be a complex area.
“The difficulty with colour marks is determining exactly how close an organisation to get to a protected shade or style before it is deemed an infringement. “For example, is BP just restricted to its single pantone colour at issue does its rights extend to similar greens too?
“While the answer is likely to be the latter, it makes for uncertainty and could potentially impact on businesses which want to adopt green in the same business sphere as the trademark owner. Colour marks can be very difficult to get a feel for when it comes to the scope of registration.”
Joanne added that businesses should approach the issue with much caution and also seek specialist advice.
“As the case of Cadbury shows, the way that businesses choose to identify themselves and products is hugely important to them,” she explained.
“Because of this, it is vital that newcomers or organisations considering a rebrand carefully consider their options and do thorough research into their markets. They should also seek legal advice to ensure that they are complying with all regulations surrounding this difficult issue. Failing to do so could have serious consequences.”
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