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Tony Webber March 19th, 2007 03:14 AM

trademarking a colour
I want to invent a fictional postal company for a film that im making. I have tried to go the route of getting endorsed by royal mail but they say the script doesnt reflect how they want their company to be seen and therefore wont let me use their logo or film their postboxes, fair enough.

I noticed this on their website:

Royal Mail, the Cruciform and the colour red are registered Trade Marks of Royal Mail Group plc.

The colour red!?

Does this mean i cant feature a fake postal company in my film with a made up logo on a red van? and use a red postbox which i will have made?

has anyone dealt with this before? is it the whole colour or just a particular shade?

Denis Danatzko March 19th, 2007 07:18 AM

The only source of info I could find that might help you
...short of consulting an attorney familiar with the subject...is a book titled "Trademark: Legal Care for Your business & Product Name". Wirtten by Stephen Elias and published here in the States by Nolo. I have no idea how it would apply in the UK. If you decide to use a book for your guidance, you'll probably be on your own to defend claims of infringement.

Keep in mind that Copyright and Trademark are very different animals, (at least here in the States). The differences are easily confused and seem to involve what you and I might consider legal minutiae.

The only input I can offer is this example: Disney does, in fact, hold copyright for certain colors and names of those colors. (But, again, copyright and trademark are not the same). Example: they might have a particular shade of black that Disney calls "Mickey's ears". I'm not sure, but I believe you could use the color, but you could not refer to it as "Mickey's ears", as they own the copyright for using/applying that name to that particular shade.

"Copyright" applies to written or publishable works, e.g. books, stories, essays, poetry, scripts, photos, etc., while "trademark" often applies to names, symbols/logos, or titles that identify specific products, publications, or companies, e.g. all "Kleenex" are tissues, but not all tissues are "Kleenex", all "Thermos" products are vacuum bottles, but not all vacuum bottles are "Thermos", FedEx is a shipping company, but not all shipping companies are FedEx.

While you must ultimately seek competent legal advice, I suspect you may be able to use the color red but not the logo, i.e. the Cruciform. Maybe a star instead?

Please report back with what you learn. I suspect it might help others.

Martin Pauly March 19th, 2007 02:31 PM


as ridiculous as this seems: the very large German telcomunications company "Telekom" has registered the colour magenta as what I would losely translate as an "imagemark". They have gone to court and sued people that used the same color, even when their use was unrelated to telecommunications. I am not aware of the outcome of these lawsuits; just the fact that a court is willing to spend time with this at all is hard to believe.

I'd seek advise from a lawyer familiar with copyright/trademark questions and your legal system - this stuff varies so much from country to country.

- Martin

James Hooey March 19th, 2007 06:49 PM

Wow! That's Hot!!! oops...Paris Hilton is gonna get me now too!

Jon Fairhurst March 19th, 2007 07:25 PM


Originally Posted by Tony Webber (Post 644080)
Royal Mail, the Cruciform and the colour red are registered Trade Marks of Royal Mail Group plc.

The colour red!?

You could always go with 90% red and 10% blue for a slight magenta tinge. You could even trademark it as "Not Red". ;)

Ask any color scientist. Red is 100-0-0 RGB, not 90-0-10.

If you really want to get devious, use alternating stripes of 100-10-0 and 100-0-10. If the stripes are thin enough it will look red from a distance, but if anybody looks closely they will see that it's striped. Again, it's not red.

Trademarking colors. Bah!!!

Richard Alvarez March 19th, 2007 08:02 PM

Yup colors can be trademarked and even SOUNDS can be trademarked. So can shapes.

For instance CORNING PINK is the specifc shade of pink that makes up their fiberglass insulation. That's why nobody elses insulation is PINK.

THe characteristic sound of the Harley Davidson engine is trademarked. I think it translates on paper to "potato-potato-potato"

And of course, the highly recognizable shape of Coca-Cola's bottle is a registered trademark, refered to as 'trade dress'. No other bottle will look like it.

I am speaking of Trademark examples here in the U.S. of course.

These laws are designed to protect the products from trademark infringement, and the more likely form of trademark CONFUSION or DILUTION. Companies work hard to establish branding based on logos, colors and shapes, and take it very unkindly for people to deal in knock-offs and copies that might mislead the consumer and sully their reputation. (To say nothing of diluting their profits.)

The protection is usually very NARROW however. And as I said, designed to prevent the likelyhood of confusion. Here in the States, we have DELTA Airlines, and a company that makes faucets and plumbing fixtures... also branded DELTA. One is not likely to confuse the plumbing company with the airline. IF however, I owned a small crop dusting company on the Mississippi DELTA... I MIGHT run into some problems calling it the DELTA AIR DUSTING SERVICE... I say MIGHT because generic TERMS cannot be copyrighted or trademarked. (The word BOX for instance)

Yes, it's confusing, No I'm not an attorney.

All this to say, you cannot make your post vehicles look TOO much like the Postal Services, or you expose yourself to liability issues.

Unless, of course, the whole thing is a PARODY.

But that's another term of art.

So, bottom line, change the look, or spend some money on an attorney.

Martin Pauly March 20th, 2007 11:19 AM


Originally Posted by Richard Alvarez (Post 644568)
Unless, of course, the whole thing is a PARODY.


you make me curious: what would be different (from a legal perspective) if this was a parody?

- Martin

John Vincent March 20th, 2007 12:04 PM

There are broad 1st Amendment rights to free speech. Comedy/parody is one those forms of speech that is most strongly protected - there's very little you can't parody...

Think of MAD or SNL - they technically interfer w/other's copyrights all the time.

Genreally speaking, the right to commercial free speech (ie - advertising) is much more subject to regulation than "normal" free speech. Here, parody would likely trump a trademark, unless it's not really a parody at all...


Jon Fairhurst March 20th, 2007 01:48 PM

I'm not sure about the UK or the Commonwealth, but in the US parody is protected.

A decade or so ago there were two unapproved "Barbie" songs. Mattel sued. One of the songs made fun of the whole Barbie lifestyle, the other was a song about Barbie. Mattel lost the former and won the latter.

Wikipedia lists the suit (Barbie Girl) that Mattel lost:

Giroud Francois March 20th, 2007 05:40 PM

and of course, you could hardly parody something/somebody if there is no way to recognize what/who you are reffering to...

James Emory May 6th, 2007 11:00 PM

A few years ago, I heard that Nissan was being taken to court by the producers of Bay Watch because Nissan began using what was said to be the same yellow color that the Bay Watch emergency vehicles used. Nissan had to temporarily stop using that color of yellow while the issue was resolved. Give me a break!

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