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T-Mobile Claims Trademark In the Color Magenta 249

Posted by kdawson
from the quit-breathing-my-patented-air dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday Engadget Mobile received a nice letter from Deutsche Telekom / T-Moblie demanding that they stop using the color magenta on engadgetmobile.com. ("Yep, seriously" they say.) Today several sites have gone magenta in a show of solidarity."
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T-Mobile Claims Trademark In the Color Magenta

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  • I know this is humour, but it makes you think about how dumb things were in Rome at some points, where if you weren't nobility, wearing purple would get you killed.
  • they have a point (Score:4, Insightful)

    by seanadams.com (463190) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:09PM (#22935416) Homepage
    The title of the page has "t-mobile" in huge letter in magenta, as part of the words "engadget-mobile"

    I could totally believe that a non-technical (ok, stupid) person might mistake this for an official t-mobile site.

    branding consists of colors, words, typefaces, graphics, and this site mimics a couple of tmobile's elements. It doesn't seem to be a parody or any other such form of protected use.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you'd read engadget's article, you'd know that they changed their normal title artwork for today (Please check your calendar) as a formal "Go Forth and Procreate" to Deutsch Telecom.
    • Re:they have a point (Score:5, Informative)

      by Hubec (28321) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:18PM (#22935538)
      The magenta "t-mobile" is a temporary response to the letter (in legal terms I believe it's called a raspberry). Their standard logo doesn't look like T-Mobil's at all.
    • by FiloEleven (602040) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:18PM (#22935550)
      You do realize that they uploaded that logo, the "deceptive" one you're berating, today, which just happens to be April 1? And that they did so specifically to spite [youtube.com] T-Mobile? And that they wrote a blog post [engadget.com] stating exactly their actions and intent?

      Congratulations, you've been had.
      • by conlaw (983784)
        I've been a T-Mobile subscriber for about 7 years now and am currently paying them for 4 phones on my family plan.* If asked prior to today, I would have said that "their color" was a shade of aqua-ish blue. When I went to the T-Mobile page after reading the engadget article, it was covered in that horrible magenta. Maybe they should rename the color to "OMG Ponies Pink."

        *Now I'm sorry that I'm locked in for about 22 more months.

  • by nih (411096) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:09PM (#22935424)
    i just got a trademark on the the colour blue, watch out IBM!
  • Are they kidding? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Whuffo (1043790) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:10PM (#22935430) Homepage Journal
    Trademark on a color? Next thing you know they'll want trademarks on letters or digits.

    Any company that wishes to trademark a logo (or other trade dress) should be required to not use things that are already in common usage. Imagine if the American Heart Association went after everyone else who used the color red in their logo?

    There's a limited number of colors, letters, and digits. Choosing one of those and expecting it to be unique is stupid.

    • Re:Are they kidding? (Score:5, Informative)

      by 0100010001010011 (652467) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:16PM (#22935506)
      Caterpillar has Cat Yellow
      John Deere has John Deere Green
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by PitaBred (632671)
        The point is, I can paint my house Cat Yellow or John Deere Green without worrying about being sued by either company. Hell, I could paint my car that color. As long as I didn't try to pass it off as related to those companies.

        And that's the problem... T-Mobile is suing Engadget Mobile for painting their house T-Mobile Magenta.
        • Re:Are they kidding? (Score:5, Informative)

          by BeeRockxs (782462) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:30PM (#22935708)
          Noone is suing anyone.
          If you had bothered to RTFA, you'd know that T-Mobiles lawyers just asked Engadget not to use that color.
        • by zbuffered (125292) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:49PM (#22935862)
          Usually when these things get posted to slashdot they seem pretty cut-and-dry, and I can't argue with your specific example, but there are some mitigating factors here:
          1) T-Mobile's letter was nice (this shouldn't factor in court or anything, but...)
            a) they stated they were "obligated" to defend their trademark
            b) they specifically kissed engadget's ass
            c) there's no doubt that engadget's current logo infringes (this was done intentionally, as a FUCK YOU to T-Mobile)
          2) Engadget Mobile specifically deals in the area (mobile phones ya know) that T-Mobile deals in

          What if you painted your tractor repair shop John Deere Green? Or used it in your logo?

          I'm not sure how this is going to turn out, but I'm not going to cancel my T-Mobile service that I don't have out of spite or anything. Bloggers can be whiny sons of bitches, just like lawyers.
          • by satoshi1 (794000)
            Engadget Mobile sells mobile phones and mobile phone services? Or wait, does T-Mobile report on news regarding mobile devices? I'm confused, help me out.
          • Indeed. I expected a nastygram, but the letter was very straight-forward and, aside from presupposing that engadget would no doubt agree to the change, fair. Probably the nicest legal letter from a company I've ever seen posted online. The reaction was overblown and unnecessary.
            • However nicely the letter was phrased it is still an idiotic request.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Workaphobia (931620)
                No, it simply is not. 1) Colors can easily constitute a major portion of a trademark (IANAL). 2) Companies are obligated to protect their trademarks as closely as is reasonable, lest they lose it to the public domain (if that term is proper for non-copyright-related IP). Given that the two entities share a similar field, and that it is the same word ("mobile") that is colorized, it would be irresponsible of T-mobile to not consider this as a potential threat to their trademark. I'm not saying they would win
            • by Dutch Gun (899105) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @10:15PM (#22937488)
              I agree... this smacks of a corporate/blogging troll to me. Notice how T-Mobile only asked them to stop using the color magenta in a "trademark-infringing" way. They never claimed that the color magenta was trademarked - it is only trademarked in relation to their logo and corporate identity. In other words, "please don't try to confuse our customers by making it appear our companies are somehow related."

              It seemed like a perfectly reasonable request to me. The summary talked of "demanding", but I have to say, that was perhaps the nicest "demand" I've ever heard.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cfulmer (3166)
          But, you could probably not put out a blog called "landscaping gadgets" and use John Deere green. It's likely that somebody will think it's a blog run by John Deere.

          Trademark and trade dress are all about customer confusion -- is it reasonable that somebody could go to the engadget mobile site and think it was related to T-mobile? What if the site was reviewing T-mobile services? By my eye, there's a likelihood that somebody will be confused.

          A trademark owner has to take affirmative steps to defend the m
      • Caterpillar has Cat Yellow
        John Deere has John Deere Green
        Cowboy Neal Cream
      • Well from that point of view, the Telekom magenta is a darker colour to the Engadget magenta. Engadget is not stealing the precise hue that T-Mobile uses.
        Nor are they using the same font.
        Both logos have a gratutitous use of excess dots, but in quite different ways.
    • UPS Brown (Score:4, Informative)

      by MachDelta (704883) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:24PM (#22935630)
      Believe it. "Pullman Brown" [wikipedia.org]" (officially "UPS Brown" [wikipedia.org]) has been a trademark of United Parcel Service for a looong friggin time. They're pretty aggressive about protecting it too, seeing as how their whole corporate image is tied to the color so strongly ("what can Brown do for you?" etc.)

      So unfortunatly, colors being trademarked is nothing new.
      • Re:UPS Brown (Score:4, Insightful)

        by techno-vampire (666512) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:34PM (#22935754) Homepage
        There's a difference here. UPS has trademarked a specific shade of brown, and protects its use. This would be like having the L.A. Dodgers try to trademark blue, instead of just Dodger Blue.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by N1ck0 (803359)
          Even if they do own a trademark on Pullman Brown, Trademark is not copyright. The prosecution of a trademark infringement is supposed to have to show customer confusion or loss/harm involved in the others business.

          So if you paint your business car Pullman Brown but don't happen to deliver packages, haul freight, offer business supply services there isn't any reasonable harm to UPS. Now if you opened a store that was called the Unified Parchment Sales, and used a brown and tan logo saying 'UPS Store' on the
    • >Trademark on a color? Next thing you know they'll want trademarks on letters or digits.

      This is quite a well established type of trademark. There's a brand of Chocolate in the UK which has successfully prevented other chocolatiers from using 'their' shade of purple. But that's kinda the point here-

      T-Mobile is well within their rights to stop other companies using their trademarked colour, IF those companies are competing in the same market. T-Mobiles lawyers must be on crack (or maybe they are hoping for
      • by poot_rootbeer (188613) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:38PM (#22935780)
        Engadget don't sell phones, or airtime, and so there is no room for potential consumer confusion.

        No, but they regularly enga(d)ge in phone reviews and commentary on the industry in which T-Mobile operates. They are part of the mobile phone business.

        If Engadget were to post rumors regarding the specs of an upcoming T-Mobile handset, there could be a real risk of consumer confusion over whether the information is from an official T-Mo source or not.

        T-Mobile's request seems perfectly cromulent to me.
        • >No, but they regularly enga(d)ge in phone reviews and commentary on the industry in which T-Mobile operates. They are part of the mobile phone business. Trademarks don't cover that, the law's only about preventing a direct loss of sales which could result from such confusion.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by amRadioHed (463061)

          If Engadget were to post rumors regarding the specs of an upcoming T-Mobile handset, there could be a real risk of consumer confusion over whether the information is from an official T-Mo source or not.
          If only our legal system wasn't based on the assumption that people are morons.
    • by db32 (862117)
      You mean everyday things like Apple and Windows shouldn't be trademarked? Additionally, trademarks don't extend outside of the industry, so AHA could only sue others in the medical industry.
    • by Klaus_1250 (987230) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:28PM (#22935682)

      It is not according to the European Courts. You can trademark a colour for a specific market (say, telecommunications). The problem is that many telco's now see the Internet as their market and thus assume their trademark applies their as well. Orange has been doing the same for years, threating websites that use orange on their website or in their domainname (yes, I lost my domain / website as well, because it isn't all talk, they really sue and are prepared to fight it to the European Court). So, no orange, no magenta, which colour will be next?

      IMHO, granting trademark on colours is another Tragedy of the Commons.

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      No, they are claiming trademark on "t-mobile", which is their company's name and registered trademark. The issue is that the website noticed that their name ends in "t-mobile", although the "t" is part of another word. So they changed just the "t-mobile" to be in "T-mobile"'s company colours. Its like there was a website called "Backslash Dotage" for some reason, and one day out of the blue they decided that just "slash Dot" would appear in teal, while the rest of their name remained black. One might t
    • Not just color (Score:3, Informative)

      by wsanders (114993)
      The engadget people are dissembling. If you look at http://www.engadgetmobile.com/ [engadgetmobile.com] the logo, in addition to being magenta, looks like this:

      engadgeT--mobile

      I think they might have a problem.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by wish bot (265150)
        They've just changed it - on purpose. I think it's great they've got the balls to do that - so many people pussyfoot around these issues today. What colour are they going to use - seriously?! There is no relationship between engadget and t-mobile, and it never even crossed anyone's mind that there might be until some overly sensitive corporate schmuck brought the lawyers in to write letters.
        • Re:Not just color (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Jesus_666 (702802) on Wednesday April 02, 2008 @06:58AM (#22939214)
          I will repeat wht I (and others) have said before:

          1.) If T-Mobile doesn't defend their trademarks they might lose them.
          2.) The color magenta is SUPER EXTREMELY ÜBER-IMPORTANT to T-Mobile and its sister companies in Germany. It defines their whole corporate design and every German knows them by this color. They can't afford to lose their color trademark.
          3.) The Engadget Mobile logo is similar to T-Mobile's corporate design in more ways than the color - the decorative bar between the words is similar to the "Digits" (small squares) that have been a mainstay of the various T-corporations' corporate design for years.
          4.) The letter written by T-Mobile was polite, non-threatening and friendly. They merely asked Engadget to please pick a different color.
          5.) Engadget showed that success does not equate professionalism and decided to answer in the most pissy way possible. "We don't have to play nice! We're the internet! Woo!"

          I agree that corporations usually are soulless beasts hellbent on making our lives miserable in the name of profit, but T-Mobile is hardly being evil here. They perceive a threat to one of their most important trademarks and before they even get out the legal club they nicely ask Engadget to pick a different color. Given that losing that trademark could cost them millions of Euros and years of lost PR work they're being exceptionally nice.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DrYak (748999)

      Trademark on a color?

      It's Deutsche Telekom. It's in Europe.
      Here in Europe, the state sponsored university hospital tried to sue our local medical student association because we made a spoof of their logo for the association, this kind of stupidity happens. But, on the other hand, as this is Europe, not suit-trigger-happy USA, the suit wasn't allowed*, and the students even pulled a weirder spoof as their next iteration of the logo.

      * - In most country were trademarks are valid, a company has to prove that yo

    • by arminw (717974)
      ...Next thing you know they'll want trademarks on letters or digits.....

      Yes lets get together on this. I'll trademark the letter "e" both upper and lowercase and you take the digits "0" and "1" for starters. How about it? Is it a deal?
    • by The-Bus (138060)
      The purple of Milka [milka.com] is trademarked as well.
    • Trademark on a color? Next thing you know they'll want trademarks on letters or digits.

      Well they are T mobile.
  • by Kelson (129150) * on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:11PM (#22935434) Homepage Journal
    Slashdot could join in by reviving the OMG Ponies theme. Pink is close enough to magenta, right?
    • by owlnation (858981)

      Slashdot could join in by reviving the OMG Ponies theme. Pink is close enough to magenta, right?

      T-Mobile calls that color "magenta" but any normal person sees it as pink. It's pink. Clearly. Also, it's an horrific shade of pink, you'd be completely crazy to use it in a brand - unless you are indeed making toy ponies. The OMG Ponies theme burned our eyes, so just think what hell it must be to work for Deutsche Telekom (the pink thing just the tip of the iceberg there too).

      One firm being that stupid is

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohnNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:11PM (#22935438) Journal
    Did anyone else find it uncomfortably odd that there was a big magenta T-Mobil ad [photobucket.com] right in the middle of Engadget's page as they "stuck it to them."

    You know, refusing to host their magenta ads might be a better way to stick it to them ... or perhaps they were asking you not to use magenta so that users wouldn't confuse the ad with the site?
    • I didn't see that ad, but I find it to be icing on the cake, honestly. What's happening here is, at the very moment you're hating T-Mobile for being such asshats, you see one of their ads -- and thus hate them more.

      And on top of it all, T-Mobile is paying for the privilege of being featured in an article on how stupid they're being!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Could this be a publicity stunt for T-Mobile?
  • The letter is a combination of the TMobile trademark lawyers doing what lawyers do...billing hours. Plus, they are protecting the TMoblie trademark. With Trademark law you must prove that you have diligently protect your TM by notifying parties of infringement. In every suspected case. With Endgadget there is no confusion or dilution of the TM. But, if someday TMobile has to defend their TM in court against another mobile provider who might use the color..they can haul out the big box of all the letters they sent to everyone who used Magenta and prove they diligently protected their TM
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by damsa (840364)
      Not really, if you stir up the pot then you are likely to lose your trademark status. Going after phone carriers probably ok. Going after bloggers who gives you free advertisement. Probably pretty stupid move both legally and in the business sense.
    • Corporate lawyers are paid a very nice salary but do not get to bill by the hour. I'm pretty sure T Mobile is big enough to employ lawyers in it's legal department.
  • by rossz (67331) <ogre@geek b i k e r.net> on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:17PM (#22935518) Homepage Journal
    I'm looking at the calendar and thinking, "this has to be a joke!". But then I think about all the bullshit trademark/copyright/patent lawsuits of the past few years. I honestly have no idea if this is real or not.
  • by Jodaxia (312456) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:17PM (#22935524)
    for Hello Kitty?
    • by ettlz (639203)
      I can hear someone learning to play the violin. Poik! Oh dear, sounds like they broke another string.
  • simple solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hack slash (1064002) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:18PM (#22935548)
    Engadget should just reply saying "We respect your trademark for the color Magenta, however, we are using the colour Magenta."
  • Just switch to mauve.

  • by davidwr (791652) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:25PM (#22935632) Homepage Journal
    Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc. [wikipedia.org] is a 1991 Supreme Court case that said you can trademark a single color in certain circumstances.
  • by SSNTails (1194501) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @05:30PM (#22935710)
    The real April Fools on /. is that the web server is probably running on Win2k3 for a day.
  • engadget has changed their logo so that the latter part of "engadgetmobile", the "t-mobile" part, is now all in magenta.

    Hilarious.
  • This isn't the first time that Deutsche Telekom has tried this. They have also sued a couple of radio stations and an IT firm [iht.com].

    Check out the Free Magenta campaign [freemagenta.nl].
  • by tijmentiming (813664) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:01PM (#22935988) Homepage
    Check out this website. It's filled with anti 'T-Mobile owns Meganta' drawings, pictures, comics and graphics.
    http://www.freemagenta.nl/ [freemagenta.nl]

    I especially like the one from Michael Wolbert (do a search for his name), somewhere on 1/3 of the page.
  • Old News? (Score:3, Informative)

    by beadfulthings (975812) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:38PM (#22936342) Journal
    Since this "Free Magenta" [freemagenta.nl] website has been around for several months in The Netherlands. Lots of food for thought there, such as what do we do about Gay Pride, the Pink Panther, and C*YK color systems? There are suggested error messages for users of Photoshop ("Sorry, this color does not belong to you!") as well as touching eulogies for good old #FF0090 -- or 255-0-144, whichever you prefer. They date the demise of magenta as a free color to 2007.
  • Why is this News? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThePeices (635180) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @06:54PM (#22936458)
    Trademarking a colour is not unheard of, there are plenty of companies who have trademarked a colour. E.g. Cadbury ( the chocolate maker ) has trademarked the colour purple. But note that in this case, you cannot use purple as the main packaging/advertising colour in a chocolate product, it can be used elsewhere without issues. This is just more of the same. The issue will be whether the two companies are 'selling' a similar product.
  • Gah (Score:2, Interesting)

    by wicka (985217)
    First off, it's a specific shade of magenta and in a specific industry; they can't just go around yelling at everyone to stop using it. A good example would be if FedEx painted all their trucks UPS brown. I don't think a single person would disagree that that is massive trademark infringement. I think T-Mobile realizes that they have almost no chance of this claim holding up in court, which is why their letter was so nice; they were basically just asking Engadget to do them a favor and stopping using their
  • Upon hearing this news story, my wife had a good question: Does this mean they're going to sue Crayola?
  • by stubear (130454) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @08:38PM (#22937108)
    ...fucking idiots. The site says nothing about a law suit, they merely received a request from the T-Mobile legal department to stop using the color magenta in association with the Endgadget MOBILE section of their site. First of all, READ THE FUCKING ARTICLE BEFORE COMMENTING. How hard is that? Quit this knee-jerk response to something that didn't actually happen. Second, if you are going to comment, KNOW THE FUCKING TOPIC. Trademarks MUST be protected and T-Mobile has a strong brand in the cellular/mobile space built around the color magenta. Asking Endgadget to stop using the color magenta on their MOBILE section is not unreasonable as it does encroach on their trademark. If Endgadget says no (an their response seems to say this in spades) then T-Mobile will need to bring this before a court to actually decide the matter. Shocking as this may be to hear, it really doesn't matter what a bunch of geeks with no experience in the law, intellectual property, or branding and identity think on the matter either.
  • Orange mobile (cell) phones are at odds with Easyjet, who uses Orange as a corporate colour.

    http://www.engadget.com/2005/02/21/orange-owns-orange/ [engadget.com]
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/3553640.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    I can't remember what happened but I hope that neither side won, because Orange are stupid to try and claim ownership of a colour... and Easyjet are bastards that have sued anyone that uses the word "easy" in any domain name!
  • by meowsqueak (599208) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @08:59PM (#22937192)
    At least in NZ, Australia and I think the UK.

    I sent them an email about it once and received a very hostile reply threatening me with 'vigorous legal action' if I tried to use purple in any confectionary context. Sheesh, I was only asking...

  • by lijkert (1259028) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @09:04PM (#22937206)
    Lawyer: "Excuse me, but what are you doing?" Homer: "I'm writing a song!" Lawyer: "Go ahead, but don't use A-flat or G-natural. Those notes are owned by disney." Homer: "Awww..." Lawyer: "That's A-flat!" Homer, on the same note, but rising: "Awww..."
  • by Chysn (898420) on Tuesday April 01, 2008 @09:53PM (#22937396)
    T-Mobile magenta: e2 00 74
    Engadget magenta: ec 00 8c

    Not. Even. Close.
  • Sorry, but if they want to claim Magenta, then NeXT can claim Magenta all over it's ass.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:NeXT_logo.svg [wikipedia.org]
  • Ok, just how dumb can companies be when they start claiming trademarks on COLORS?!

    Certain companies in certain industries have traditionally had their own colors, such as:

    Company: (Color Usage:)

    John Deere: Green (Logo, vehicle color)
    Caterpillar: Yellow (Logo, bulldozers, tractors, engines)
    Ford: Blue (Logo, engines)
    Waukesha: Orange (Logo, engines)
    FedEx: Blue/Red (Logo, vehicle lettering)
    United Parcel Servie: Brown (Logo, vehicle color)
    DHL: Yellow/Red (Lo

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