When to claim color in your trademark application

Trademark Law0 comments

What immediately comes to mind when you picture a Tiffany’s box?

It’s not the shape or size (though the best things do come in small packages, right?).

It’s probably not even Tiffany’s stylized logo or word mark.

It’s undoubtedly that hyper-specific, instantly recognizable Tiffany Blue color.

That particular shade of blue is a Pantone Color called “1837 Blue.”

Named for Tiffany’s founding year.

That’s how ingrained the color is into Tiffany’s brand identity.

So, okay, you’re not exactly running a multi-billion dollar jewelry business.

But when does it make sense for you to claim color in your trademark application? 

(And when can you skip it?)

**Just before we dive in: this post is legal education and information, not business, financial, or legal advice, and it doesn’t create an attorney-client relationship between us. 

This is also an attorney communication under Rule 7.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct of the State Bar of California and Business and Professions Code Sections 6157-6159.2.

Please chat with an attorney in your area to make sure you’re protecting your business.**

The role of color in your trademark application

Design mark applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) give you the option to claim color for your trademark.

A design mark (aka a special form mark) is a mark that includes text along with specific stylized elements – like graphics, artwork, font, and of course, color. 

Here are the 2 options for color when you’re filing your trademark as a design mark:

  1. You don’t claim color

If you choose not to claim color, you’ll provide a drawing (aka image) of the trademark with your application in black and white. 

But that doesn’t mean you’re limited to ONLY black and white when you share your mark. 

You can use whatever colors you’d like, so long as the design itself doesn’t change.

  1. You do claim color

If you do claim color, then you’ll submit your drawing (image) in the exact same color you wish to register as a trademark. 

And your design must appear in that same color whenever you share your mark. 

Arguably, registration of a design mark in black and white provides the most comprehensive protection since your design is protected in any color you choose to represent it in.

So, if registering your mark in black and white is so great, why is claiming color even an option?

Because if color is a distinct part of your brand’s identity – and you know you won’t be changing it – then claiming color may be the best move for your brand.

I mean, imagine if someone claimed they bought you a gift from Tiffany’s, and it came in a bright pink bag.

You’d immediately think they bought you a knockoff, right?

More brands whose colors are their visual identity

When you see a brown van roll up in front of your house with a delivery, you immediately know it’s UPS (United Parcel Service of America, Inc.). 

UPS has been delivering parcels in their signature brown vehicles since 1919 and has several trademark registrations that claim the colors brown and gold as part of their mark. 

Target’s, well, target logo is no doubt distinctive, and they claim that particular shade of red in the trademark registration for its online store.

And can you guess what color Home Depot claims in its registration?

Orange, of course.  

You could probably picture each of those colors and logos in your mind as soon as I mentioned them.

That’s because we’ve been trained to associate all those colors with their brands. 

They’re an integral part of each of those brand’s visual identity.

Will you claim a color trademark?

An important reminder: trademarks and brands are different.

Your brand is the overall feeling your customers or clients get from your business. It’s their experience and your reputation that’s built over time that creates your brand.

A trademark is something that represents your brand and helps your customers/clients easily identify you.

But despite the difference, the two are closely linked.

A trademark gives you a tangible way to protect your brand from copycats and rip-off artists. Which is why it’s worth considering whether you need to claim a color trademark or if you’re better off submitting your application in black and white.

At the end of the day, it will always come down to how you want your brand to be represented and which option provides that representation with the most comprehensive protection.

For help deciding what’s best for your brand, apply for your trademark consultation.


Want to keep Uncomplicating Trademarks for yourself?

Get on the exclusive podcast list and start listening today. (Hint: Episode 2 is all about the difference between a trademark and a brand.)

I’m Nicole.

I understand both the legal world and the online business world and can bridge the gap for entrepreneurs that want to ensure all of their ducks are in a nice, neat row. Let’s protect your business so you can build your empire.

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