3M Owns The Colour Purple (But Not How You Might Think)

And here I was, ready to paint my bedroom purple. But if 3M owns it, I can't, right? Wrong! Although under US law 3M strangely does have a valid claim to the the colour, it's not as bad as it sounds.

Intellectual property law allows for what's called "trade dress" - the visual distinctiveness that, the hope is, allows consumers to differentiate between similar products on the basis of their origin. That means you can walk into the supermarket and spot a red Coca-Cola based on its redness - and know you're not going to open the can and have a swarm of killer bees fly into your mouth. Or, y'know, some weird inferior brand of soft drink. So a rival soft-drink maker can't make bottles of the same hue, hoping to piggyback on Coke's visual reputation.

Coke owns, to a certain extent, that colour. It's a wacky idea - having even partial ownership over the way light reflects off a surface and hits our eyes - but don't worry, nobody actually owns the colour. In the case above, 3M could only stop you from selling a competing product dressed up in the same purple packaging. Other than that, purple is yours to love and own. Go ahead, buy those purple pants - no legal goons will come knocking. [via Boing Boing]


Comments

    I thought Cadbury owned the colour purple?

    (well, I guess it does when it comes to confectionery, and 3M has it for its products... tape? floppy disks? Post-its? What else does 3M make... quite a lot of different things, if I recall correctly)

      According to Australian courts, Cadbury has no claim to the colour purple: http://bit.ly/b10VWW

      The 3M ruling in this article falls under US law.

    From Cadbury's webiste:
    © Cadbury Pty Ltd 2010 | All brands and logos/images accompanied by ® or TM, and the colour purple are Cadbury Group trade marks used under licence.

    From ANZ's website:
    © Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ) 2010 ABN 11 005 357 522. ANZ's colour blue is a trade mark of ANZ.

      The only reason I was about to comment on this article was to point out exactly what you just said those exact brands. :)

    Purple pants is a crime and legal goons will be chasing you should you commit this offence.

    The products in question are high performance sanding belts, which are (surprise, surprise) purple.

    umm... Cadbury aren't selling plastic, vinyl films or sticky tape.

    It only applies, (if you read the article properly), if you were going to sell/market a competing product in the same colour.

    If 3M were to start selling Choclate -
    A) It won't taste very good
    B) It'd be very hard to get to it, before A takes effect...

    sorry... bad humor

    I believe Pantone own all the colours these clowns use!

    Ever see a Pantone colour sample book. Every colour these companies use are all listed and all pantented!

    The wall behind my bed is purple. And that's the way it will stay. Sorry 3M.

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