Nestle’s claim to the colour purple has been dismissed by the High Court. An appeal over a ruling from the UK’s Trade Mark Registry, Cadbury have succeeded in defending their registering of the colour ‘Pantone 2685C’ as a trademark for their milk chocolate.
Nestle, who are based in York, objected to Cadbury’s trademark saying that a colour was not a sign capable of being represented graphically and therefore was not registerable as a trademark. However Judge Colin Birss wrote in his ruling “The evidence clearly supports a finding that purple is distinctive of Cadbury for milk chocolate.”
Cadbury have been using the distinctive purple colour on their milk chocolate wrappers for over a hundred years and it is thought that the colour was originally picked as a tribute to Queen Victoria.
The reason behind the legal proceedings is colour of packaging is thought to create a strong connection to consumers, for example the use of yellow for butter. One company having a trademark on a colour for a particular product can create a tough barrier for its competitors.
While Cadbury have succeeded in trademarking the colour in the UK they have not been so successful in other countries. In 2008 they tried to stop Australian confectioner David Lea from using purple on its packaging but their complaint was rejected by Federal Court in Melbourne.
The debate about whether a company can ‘own’ a colour is one that has been going on for a long time. In 2005 easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou clashed with the mobile phone company Orange over his plans to create easyMobile using the same vivid orange colour scheme as the other arms of easyGroup.
Other companies are also protective over their image and branding. Toblerone has exclusive rights to triangular chocolate boxes and Heinz has trademarked the turquoise colour of its cans.