Showing posts with label AT&T. Show all posts
Showing posts with label AT&T. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

T-Mobile Wins Preliminary Injunction Against Similar Magenta Color

A federal district court judge has granted T-Mobile a preliminary injunction against AT&T subsidiary Aio Wireless on basis that its color scheme infringes on T-Mobile's magenta color trademark. 
In the decision, Federal District Court judge Lee Rosenthal held that "T-Mobile has shown a likelihood that potential customers will be confused into thinking that Aio is affiliated or associated with T-Mobile based on the confused association between Aio’s use of its plum color and T-Mobile’s similar use of its similar magenta color." 
The order prohibits Aio from using a plum color in advertising, marketing, and in store design.
Aio Wireless is a low-cost, no-contract carrier owned and operated by AT&T. 
The prepaid service launched in 2013 and T-Mobile filed a lawsuit against the company's use of the plum color, which we reported on.
In the complaint, T-Mobile argued that Aio's plum color scheme and similar wireless services confused customers into thinking that the low-cost carrier was associated with T-Mobile. 
T-Mobile proved that it had a strong likelihood of success in the merits of its case. 
Part of T-Mobile's argument was that "AT&T set up Aio to compete directly with T-Mobile," and the court agreed, finding that "the record is clear that Aio wanted to capture T-Mobile customers." 
Some documents unearthed during early discovery in the case disclosed that AT&T knew Aio's color scheme was similar to T-Mobile's. 
According to the opinion, a company hired by AT&T for focus group testing sent a report "highlighting that because the plum color was so similar to T-Mobile magenta, focus-group members were initially confused into thinking that the commercials were affiliated with T-Mobile."
T-Mobile has defended its trademark on its magenta color vigorously, and in a statement, the company says that this latest ruling "validates T-Mobile's position that wireless customers identify T-Mobile with magenta and that T-Mobile's use of magenta is protected by trademark law."

Thursday, August 29, 2013

T-Mobile Sues AT&T Subsidiary Over Use of the Color Magenta

In a recently-filed federal lawsuit against AT&T subsidiary Aio Wireless, telecommunications giant T-Mobile alleges that Aio Wireless deliberately chose the color magenta to advertise, promote and market a competing product, and in doing so, violated the trademark laws and committed unfair competition.

“With full knowledge of T-Mobile’s use of magenta, AT&T’s subsidiary chose — out of all the colors in the spectrum — magenta to advertise, market and promote its wireless services in direct competition with T-Mobile,” the complaint alleges.

“Aio does not use the orange coverage map of its parent company, but instead uses in its stores and on its website a magenta coverage map that is strikingly similar in color to the one used by T-Mobile."

However, what exactly is the "magenta" shade that T-Mobile uses, and does T-Mobile really own it as a trademark?
T-Mobile has undoubtedly been aggressive protecting magenta as a key part of its brand.  

In the more recent fight with Aio, T-Mobile's court filings reference a number of trademark registrations issued to its parent Deutsche Telekom AG for the color magenta alone, "which is the approximate equivalent of pantone matching system rhodamine red u, used on the background of product displays and advertisements found in a store."

However, the Washington Post notes that this trademark translates to hex #c63678 in the pantone color coding system.  The Post's reporters also noted that Aio's version of "magenta" maps to #960051.  In other words, not all magentas are the same, and it will be up to the District Court to sort out if there is a viable claim of infringement here.

But can T-Mobile really lay legal claim to a color to begin with?

The answer is absolutely, as a matter of established U.S. trademark law.  Colors can function as powerful indicators of source, when they are not serving a functional purpose.  A unanimous U.S. Supreme Court definitively pronounced on the subject in 1995, finding that colors could acquire distinctiveness over time, and serve the purpose of a trademark.  As we have also discussed, however, how this regime applies to individual cases is tricky.