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Shades of Meaning -- Best Practices for Single-Color Trademark Protection

By Purvi J. Patel1 and Tiffany Ferris2

As anyone who has ever sat through an entry-level marketing class knows, color and brand are inextricably linked. The consumer mind is wired to tie together brands and the colors they adopt -- and that is not just marketing fluff. Recent research from Loyola University, Maryland, found that color increases brand recognition by up to 80 percent,3 a tremendous figure in a marketplace brimming with purchasing options. It is this increased brand recognition that drives brand owners to spend vast amounts of time and money creating an association between a color and their product or service. It is only natural that those who expend such vast resources will want to protect their investments. The brand owner who wishes to protect a single-color alone (think red for heart disease research and charitable fundraising services ... or for high-end shoes), as distinguished from color as one of many components in a mark, is in for a steep climb. That said, considering brand development and protection strategies for a single-color at the gestational stages can facilitate exclusivity, ownership, and enforcement in the long run.

Inside the Lines: Color as a Trademark

The Lanham Act...

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