Thursday, 11 October 2012

Cadbury Trademarks the Colour Purple - and Why it's Not as Daft as it Sounds

The news broke this week that Cadbury have successfully won an eight-year long case that gives them the right to trademark a colour, or, as the New Statesman put it "a certain wavelength of the magnetic spectrum". It seems ridiculous, and perhaps over-aggressive commericialism, a bit like trademarking a facial expression or the aroma of fresh bread baking.
And, as I read articles that talked about it being ridiculous and the puzzled responses from Tweeters, I couldn't help but place myself firmly on Cadbury's side.
Here's the text of the application, as quoted in the New Statesman article I mentioned earlier:

"The colour purple (Pantone 2685C), as shown in the form of application, applied to the whole visible surface or being the predominant colour applied to the whole visible surface, of the packaging of the goods [for] chocolate in bar and tablet form, chocolate confectionery, chocolate assortments, cocoa-based beverages, chocolate-based beverages, preparations for chocolate-based beverages, chocolate cakes."

If you read it carefully, you'll notice that the colour is only being trademarked in relation to the manufacture and sale of chocolate products. Cadbury aren't going to sue you for wearing a Pantone 2685C-coloured jumper or if you open a fish and chip shop with the same colour on the signage. It's just relating to chocolate in all forms, including drinking chocolate.
Wispa.... unmistakably Cadbury's, thanks to Pantone 2685C
And, to be honest, anyone launching a chocolate bar with exactly the same purple-coloured packaging as Cadbury is obviously doing it to ride on the coat-tails of the chocolate giant. Here's an example. The other day I bought one of those desk-trays, where you can slide in your papers so they're not all over your desk. It came in a white box, with a blue company name, underlined with a wiggly dotted red line. I got it home and couldn't believe the resemblance it bore to the Tesco 'value' packaging. This was no accident; even the company name was written in the same (or very similar font) to Tesco. And I thought to myself: if I was the owner of Tesco I wouldn't feel happy about it. So I can understand Cadbury's efforts to trademark and protect a colour that they've been associated with for almost 100 years.


What do you think? Do you think it's greedy of them to trademark the colour of their packaging? Or do you sympathise and think that they're just protecting their brand? Or can't you see what all the fuss is about? Let me know in the comments below...