When the Color Black Functions, But Not as a Trademark


Now that kids are back to school and summer is coming to a close, this billboard advertisement has disappeared from I-94 just outside of downtown Minneapolis. Before it vanished from the roadside, however, I thought to capture it to tell a little trademark tale here, one from years past, but one that remains relevant, important, and applicable to trademark claims involving the color black.

As we have discussed before, a single color can function as a trademark and be the basis of exclusive ownership, so long as it is not functional and has acquired distinctiveness for the goods in question. As it turns out, however, and as the billboard reminds me, due to some unique attributes of the color black, it is a tricky one to own as a trademark.

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