Can I use on my layouts a color that is patented by a company?

Let's say that a company logo uses the CMYK value 45 10 26 5 and they've patented that color to be used only and exclusively by them. If my industry activity is different from the company whose color is "patented", can I apply that same color on my logo and graphic materials without any problem?

A real example for that stuff is the discussion around the famous "Tiffany Blue" color patented by Tiffany & Co., according to their press agency, a color to be used exclusively on their packages or gift boxes for the Tiffany's products.

As this is a subject not often discussed, I wanted to know what you think about it.

Thanks for helping!

  • @ZachSaucier thanks for quote that question, I will take a look, every help is welcome when the subject is delicate and maybe "controversial" like that. Thanks! – user56132 Dec 26 '15 at 4:18

It doesn't so much matter what we think about it, but rather what the lawyer of the company who have trademarked the color think.

So, for starters, note that you can't patent a color in the US. You can trademark a particular use of a color, however. This is typically called trade dress.

And said trade dress can be protected, but not necessarily the color in and of itself. In other words, Owens Corning can own the color pink, but only in the world of building products. If you want to come out with a fiberglass insulation product that is pink, they'll probably sue you. On the other hand, if you're coming out with pink pancake batter, there's likely no confusion in the marketplace and you're good to go.

There is no hard-and-fast rule about this, but in general, if your use of color appears to be an attempt and creating confusion in the marketplace for the consumer, then that is when you've crossed the line into trademark infringement.

  • Great! So, let's check if I got it, in parts: Firstly, we can trademark the way a color is used, such as Tiffany did with their packages or gift boxes, instead of trademarking the color by itself. About the other point, if my business or kind of activity is distinct from the company who trademarked an use of a color, so there is no reasons for fight. Is that correct? In my case, I live in Sao Paulo, so I have to look for a specific law here which takes care of that subject, right? – user56132 Dec 26 '15 at 3:17
  • @joao1234 yes, that's a good summary. Though note that was all in the context of US Law. Things may vary in Brazil. – DA01 Dec 26 '15 at 3:45
  • Sure, I will research about how things happen here (everything is slow in brazil...). Thank you so much! – user56132 Dec 26 '15 at 4:15