Registering for colour trademark or black and white trademark

Trademark registration can be divided into two kinds – black and white trademark, and coloured trademark:

For coloured trademark, the colour of the trademark in use must be the same as the colour registered. Trademark owner cannot change the colour on his will.

For black and white trademark, owner can change the colour of the trademark after registration. However, the distinctiveness may not be strong.

1. Needs of products

The use of colour may make the products, such as paint and colour painting, more vivid.

2. Influential signs or figures

In some cases, colour has become an integral part of a sign or a figure, such as the yellow “M” sign of McDonald’s, the golden yellow trademark of JDB Group and the red trademark of Red Bull etc.

3. The concept of colour-combination trademark

As the name suggested, colour-combination trademark only protects trademarks that are mainly formed of a combination of colours. Two or more colours mixed in appropriate proportion and sequence do not only have an effect of visual attractiveness, but they also have better impacts after prolonged use and extensive promotion.

4. Features of colour-combination trademark

  1. Colour-combination trademarks must be formed by two or more colours.
  2. Colour-combination trademarks must only be formed by colours. Words and figures are not allowed to be displayed with the combination of colours.
  3. The proportion and distribution of colour-combination trademarks should be accurate. As two or more colours can form many combinations with big variation, if the proportion and distribution of the colour combination are too random and inaccurate, it is difficult for consumers to correlate the colour combination with a certain product or service, in order to identify its origin.


5. Possible denial of trademark registration

For trademarks with too simplified design, registration may be denied if it is applied in a black and white version. The likelihood of successful registration can be raised by using a coloured design.

Besides coloured trademarks that can highlight the features of the product, what is the advantage of black and white trademarks? As compared to coloured trademarks, the biggest advantage of black and white trademarks is flexibility.

First, corporates may add colours onto the trademarks for promotion according to their needs, so as to fit the trademark to the context. Second, black and white trademarks have advantage on trademark protection because coloured trademarks only enjoy protection in one specific colour, whereas black and white trademarks enjoy comprehensive protection.

In 1999, Wm. Wrigley Jr. Company applied the light green colour on its chewing gums for EU trademark registration. At last, the registration was denied for the reason that the colour of light green was not sufficiently “unique and uncommon”. The colour had an implication of the environment, such that other similar products such as apple, lemon and mint-flavoured chewing gum manufacturers may also need to use this colour to indicate their flavours.

From the above cases, we can understand that, first, the choice of colour is important. Some sufficiently unique colour without general meanings are more likely to be approved for trademark registration. Second, the examination on coloured trademark is very strict. There are also many conditions and restrictions, such as the restrictions on geographical location and product. 

Shenzhen Benny Kong Intellectual Property Agent Ltd has expertise in domestic and foreign trademark registration, transfer of trademark and enquiry in trademark cases. We are specialized in the trademark practice area and will endeavour to provide professional service to corporates.

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