3M claims ownership over purple


72 Responses to “3M claims ownership over purple”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Not so fast, 3M! TTAB Finds the Color Purple to be Functional for Sandpaper – http://bit.ly/dqVErq

  2. morkuma says:

    owens corning owns pink.

    © 1996-2010 Owens Corning Insulation. All rights reserved.
    The color PINK is a registered trademark of Owens Corning.

    http://insulation.owenscorning.ca/ (bottom of page)

  3. Anonymous says:

    WIFFLE brand plastic baseball bats have the color yellow trademarked as well.

  4. SQFreak says:

    Some context would be helpful. Under US law, trademarks are only protectable in for the goods and service on which they are used. As long as the choice of color does not put competitors at a non-reputation-related disadvantage, a claim to a color can be actionable under the Lanham Act. Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc., 514 U.S. 159 (1995). That means that the purple trademark FOR SANDPAPER or related products is fine as long as there isn’t some technical reason that makes it more difficult for competitors to use non-purple coloring.

    As long as Alice Walker doesn’t sell sandpaper or similar goods or services, she’ll be fine.

  5. XerxesQados says:

    I can kind of understand the need to prevent people in the same industry as you from making their packages the exact same color as yours, but there needs to be a better way to word it.

  6. neph13 says:

    so I guess Prince will have to change his album to ’3M Rain’
    :( Just doesn’t have the same ring

    • Anonymous says:

      That’s right up there with the One-eyed, one-horned, flying, 3M People-eater. That’s a liability for them, is it not?

  7. Khaidee says:

    Or perhaps Alice Walker?

  8. Antinous / Moderator says:

    Great. Drive the Murex to extinction and then claim the trademark.

  9. apoxia says:

    I thought purple was a trademark of Cadbury.

  10. glasnt says:

    Pretty sure Cadbury Chocolate already owns PURPLE


  11. gwailo_joe says:

    Sorry Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. . .you owe, muthaphukkas. you owe.

  12. scifijazznik says:

    I wonder if Alice Walker or Prince know about it.

    I’ve wondered about silly things like this since I got my kid a Lionel train set and it says something ridiculous like “the colors orange and blue are a trademark of Lionel Trains.” My guess is, if it can be explained, the explanation will leave you with a vague dissatisfaction that people actually make piles of cash writing such hooey.

  13. Anonymous says:

    And I thought (silly me!) that
    “The Color Purple” was a movie starring Ms.Oprah Winfrey!

  14. C White says:

    That ain’t right.

  15. Griffin says:

    Remember that trademark is often pretty limited – in cases like this, often extending only in relation to direct competitors of their product who use it in a similiar way.

    Even then, its still a bit silly.

  16. TFox says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_dress — so no, Alice Walker and Prince don’t have to worry.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Cadbury has a specific purple it owns. I wonder of 3M claims a specific purple, or ALL purple. That would make 3M the the patent troll equivalent for the color purple.

    The company, founded in Birmingham in 1824, is fiercely protective of its ‘Cadbury Purple’, or Pantone 2685C as it is known at the Patent Office.

    Read more: http://www.metro.co.uk/news/49941-its-our-purple-say-cadbury#ixzz13RMvpDYe

  18. Avram / Moderator says:

    Isn’t that a bit broad? I mean, Kodak just trademarked a particular shade of yellow. Likewise Yves Klein and his shade of blue.

    • Candice says:

      It’s definitely broad. I don’t know if I’ve heard of a trademark on a whole chunk of the spectrum before. 3M, for instance, already has “canary yellow”, not just “yellow”. If every company with a competing product claimed another chunk there’d only be room for to ten or so others since it leaves red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black, white, grey, brown and pink. That can’t be right.

  19. Green_Tuxedo says:

    It’s the color reserved for royalty so unless 3M is a gay princess then their outta luck.

  20. Xenu says:

    This is a sticky legal situation.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think you mean Alice Walker, Alice Munro wrote “Lives of Girls and Women”

  22. Bade says:

    And T-Mobile owns magenta aparently…

  23. prof_jellis says:

    There’s a similar kerfuffle about magenta and T-mobile.

    Since those colors (that’s colours to you, Cory) are adjacent on the colo(u)r wheel, does that mean they could measure the level of infringement in degrees?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I notice on their website that the wording is slightly different – it’s not “the color purple”, it’s “the purple color”; same words, big difference semantically.

  25. Anonymous says:

    waiting for them to sue the world..

  26. Anonymous says:

    Cadbury’s do own the trademark for purple in relation to chocolate. But 3M don’t make chocolate nor are they using purple to market chocolate, so there is no infringement. Kodak own yellow, but you can still use it to advertise things that don’t step on Kodak’s toes.

  27. Jonathan Badger says:

    It isn’t purple that they are laying claim to, it is PURPLE — which may be 3M’s trade name for that shade — note that it is strangely written in all caps unlike the rest of the sentence.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I work in marketing. My guess is that this is a custom color made for 3M, not a standard Pantone shade. It is that specific color that they have trademarked.

  29. bardfinn says:


    We were better off, trademark-wise, with the standard used by Medieval – Renaissance Heralds – a single color could not be used as the mark of a person* or corporation but two colors (a colour and a metal [gold or white]) could signify a trade dress for a person or corporation, with overlap of sets of color between trades or classes but not in the same trade or class, and zero overlap of a full set of colors and device (what we think of as a coat of arms).

    Someone, somewhere, is going to try to trademark black one of these days. What a sad state of affairs.

    * (purple, ‘royal’ blue, and in some cases black and sometimes a deep red were in some times and countries ‘reserved’, but were not the mark of a particular person but of the /clothing/ of a particular social class.)

  30. deathbaboon says:

    Trademark only applies to the specific type of product. 3m doesn’t make chocolate eggs, so they can use purple. If they did make chocolate eggs they would have to be a different colour. Pink Panther insulation owns the colour pink for insulation- no other company can make pink insulation; but Mattel can make pink Barbies. Also, just because someone says it’s trademarked doesn’t mean it is. Kleenex and Xerox lost the trademarks to their names because their products had become so synonymous with the generic version. You have to have the name, image, or colour, be symbolic of your product and have it wide spread. If coke-cola only distributed their bottles in Oregon then someone with the same bottle shape in Florida could duplicate it.

  31. enkiv2 says:

    This is usually how packages signify that they own a particular shade of a colour, so 3m probably owns that particular purple. I’ve also seen similar notes on packaging and websites referring to logos in alarmingly generic term (with the occasional alarmingly specific one, for instance: “The purple flaming X logo is a registered trademark of Xanadu Operating Company”).

    I suppose it would be counterproductive to be more specific in the case of colours.

  32. Bud Tugley says:

    The purple pill, Nexium – helps to provide relief of heartburn symptoms from acid reflux disease — day and night.
    Your results with NEXIUM may vary.

    Important Safety Information About NEXIUM
    In adults 18 and older, side effects with NEXIUM include headache, diarrhea, and abdominal pain.
    In children 1 to 17 years of age, side effects with NEXIUM include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and sleepiness.
    Symptom relief does not rule out the presence of other serious stomach conditions.

  33. Anonymous says:

    A couple weeks ago I noticed that Park Tool, makers of bicycle maintenance gear, have trademarked the color blue. I didn’t realize at the time that this was so widespread.

  34. webmonkees says:

    The real jewel among corporate spectra is the pigment they use for the ‘enhanced’ ads as in They Live.
    ⋐⊙⊓≸⊍⋈⋳ ɖɩʂɲɛɣɭɒɳɖ

  35. Anonymous says:

    “When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
    And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
    I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
    And run my stick along the public railings
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
    And learn to spit.

    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
    And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
    Or only bread and pickle for a week
    And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
    And pay our rent and not swear in the street
    And set a good example for the children.
    We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

    But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
    So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
    When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple. ”


  36. Anonymous says:

    UPS owns brown, they say. Less flashy than purple, but more fundamental…earthy. It befits a solid company offering a simple but essential service. You can trust brown, freshly out of the truck wash and nicely polished.

  37. social_maladroit says:

    It looks like this applies to 3M’s purple-colored sanding belts (although I didn’t see anything about purple being a trademark on their website).

    They sell other purple-colored sanding products too, so if you plan on bringing your sandpaper to the market, make sure it’s not purple or you might face the wrath of 3M!

  38. Anonymous says:

    social_maladroit I found it on their website without the all caps purple here if you click the full description link: http://tinyurl.com/2cf69eb

  39. Ugly Canuck says:

    The purple night shall yet be ours!


    …but as it’s now “out-of-print”, it may be difficult to get yours.

  40. redesigned says:

    wow. the concept intellectual property has hit a new low and it hasn’t even reached it’s 130th birthday yet. when can we admit that this has been a failed social experiment and move into our next renaissance? we got by without it for most of human history, it isn’t like the world would fall apart without it.

  41. fnc says:

    Is burple is still available?

  42. Rockslide says:

    How do we as a people stop ridiculous things like this from being allowed? You can’t own a color. Sorry. A logo sure. A jingle or ad phrase sure. Not a color. That’s akin to copyrighting an animal. They did not originate the color or combination that created the color, whatever color they picked existed far before they came along, they can’t own it. I don’t even care if it is a very specific purple. They can’t own it.

  43. Anonymous says:

    similarly, the colour blue is a trademark of the park tool company. check out the notice at the bottom of parktool.com

  44. Anonymous says:

    What about Light Urple?

  45. Anonymous says:

    I claim ownership over BULLSHIT…

  46. morganw says:

    Purple is also used (generically) on filters to indicate they’re HEPA. For example, an AO Safety P100 (P for oil Proof, 100 for near 100% which is really 99.97% of particulates above a certain size).

    3M’s respiratory personal protective equipment page. The P100s are purple, the N95 (not oil proof) and P95 are not.

    3M’s pushing their PPE at the consumer level in hardware stores. All my locals used to feature AO Safety, but they only have cartridges, not masks, from them now.

    3M also used to use purple for their best “pleated’ furnace air filters, but they weren’t anywhere close to HEPA and they’ve stopped.

  47. BrerMatt says:

    Today, coincidentally, ecogeek.org has a blog about painting wind turbines purple to keep birds from hitting them.


  48. Manooshi says:

    Fuck THAT.

    The ancient Phoenicians (a Greco-invented term– they were simply coastal Canaanites) of what is today, Lebanon, were the ones who first invented the color purple from the conch sea shell.

    Fuckin’ A!

  49. jeber says:

    Colors are wavelengths of light. Someone ought to patent light, then they’ll own all the colors. I’m going to patent ‘air’ and sue everyone who breathes it.

  50. cjp says:

    I have copyrighted the particular shade of LEUCOCHROIC which can be found only on the inside of my upper thigh. If you have that colour down there, change it immediately.

  51. Anonymous says:

    “Orange background color is a registered trademark.”
    - Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup wrapper

  52. Anonymous says:

    I noticed the other day that Royal Mail claim to own the colour Red. Can’t say I am partically impressed, though it does conjure up the image of someone a bit like The Cat from Red Dwarf going around the country marking things – “that’s mine, and that’s mine, and that’s mine”.

  53. Anonymous says:

    Doesn’t matter, I copyrighted the letter P along time ago. It was part of a book I wrote, the letter P shows up quite a few times [along with other letters but I really like the letter P, so that is the only one I will enforce right now] so I am going to claim that any use of that letter anywhere on printed matter is a derivative work.

    So now should I contemplate suing 3M since they used it not once, but twice in thier colour “PurPle” so I have proof of blatant and repeated infrigement. Of course, I should just send a nasty sounding letter threating millions of dollars in potential damamges and a lengthy legal battle, but give them an escape route to just send me a check annually for $2,000 to licence the use of P in their colour name. [ala BSA]

    This stuff is nuts. The scary part is they probably would send the $2,000 check. Which is more nutso.

  54. Anonymous says:


    Start wearing purple wearing purple
    Start wearing purple for me now
    All your sanity and wits they will all vanish
    I promise, it’s just a matter of time…

  55. BikerRay says:

    Didn’t Harley-Davidson trademark their engine sound?
    What about the poem “When I am an old Woman I shall wear Purple”? Ha; not any more you won’t!

  56. ryane says:

    I never saw a [REDACTED] Cow,
    I never hope to see one;
    But I can tell you, anyhow,
    I’d rather see than be one.

  57. Andy Rofl says:

    Here’s the story with Cadbury owning the colour purple in Australia: http://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/media/pages/lead/cadbury_purple.htm

  58. John Coulthart says:

    Britain’s Royal Mail has this wording on all their promotional material:

    “Royal Mail, the Cruciform and the colour red are registered trade marks of Royal Mail Group Ltd.”

  59. Anonymous says:

    Does that make Gogol Bordello part of the 3M marketing team?

  60. Anonymous says:

    A friend send me a purple painting, and called it pourpel so I guess that’s the term I will use from now on, I’m sending it to our programmers and graphics design division as well.

  61. The Purple Store says:

    In related news, The Purple Store today changed their name to, simply, “The Store.”

  62. Rickmccl says:

    Well, speaking as a hyperintelligent shade of purple we are going to file countersuit in high galactic court!

  63. rtresco says:

    You can absolutely copyright specific PMS colors. It says purple on the box, but I’m willing to bet it’s in reference to that exact PMS. As someone already said, Barbie pink is copyrighted. So is Tiffany blue/green, or Victoria Secret pink, etc.

    In fact I met the guy who invented Victoria Secret pink. He was just a press operator at a paper mill where they were having an order filled, and he mixed them a color on the spot and they ran with it. He didn’t and doesn’t get anything for his “invention”, since it was just part of his job.

  64. shadowfirebird says:

    Quick, BoingBoing — trademark white! Or your site will stop working!

    Better yet, think of the profits you can rake in any time someone buys paper.

  65. Alden says:

    I’ve just trademarked infrared. If you’re emitting heat right now, you’re in breach, and may expect a demand for money from my lawyer.

  66. C White says:

    “What is light urple.”

  67. Anonymous says:

    Flying 3M people eater?

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