As you may already know, Cadbury has won the exclusive rights to their own shade of purple. The win is the result of a four year legal battle with rivals Nestlé. Cadbury now ‘own’ Pantone 2685C purple for use across all of their chocolate bar and drinks packaging. More importantly, they can bring legal action against other brands using the colour who they see to be infringing upon their copyright.
Whether you agree with the decision or not, the case does raise a few interesting questions. Should a company be allowed to own a colour? Does allowing other people to use ‘your’ colour damage your brand? Obviously these are arguments that have been raging behind the scenes for some time now but it does make us wonder what implications the decision could have for the future. It also does make us wonder if perhaps chocolate companies could be spending their time and money on producing a better product? Squabbling over who’s allowed to wrap their chocolate in a certain colour does seem a touch childish, but I suppose you need all the help you can get when contributing to national obesity.
Is any of this even important? There are millions of colours – surely there enough to go round? Well, maybe not. Apparently, ‘closely similar shades’ are also off limits. So picking the the closest thing (which, if you’re interested would appear to be Pantone Violet) doesn’t seem to be an option either. With this in mind, it’s feasible to think that once a particular shade of purple is taken, it’s not long before all the other shades go the same way.
So is this just the beginning? Have the courts opened the doors for every other brand with a single colour which acts as a primary ‘indicator of product’? As you’re reading this, are Tiffany on their way to the Intellectual Property Offices armed with a Pantone swatch book? In reality, probably not. This case was a relatively rare one and based largely on the fact that Cadbury had been pretty much exclusively using this particular shade of purple for more than 90 years, and were also able to provide ‘copious evidence’ showing that customers have been educated to associate the colour with it’s products. If nothing else, this does show the importance of consistency in branding and the strong argument for the consumer’s response to this consistency over a long period of time.
Another thing to consider in this debate is the cultural significance of certain colours. The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, recently got involved with the argument when The Meaningful Chocolate Company were advised by intellectual property lawyers to amend their purple packaging to something less Cadbury-like. Rev Cottrell suggested that perhaps the chocolate giants should “Relax, smile, eat a few squares of your chocolate – and don’t be so precious over purple” His comments are hard to argue with: “Cadbury should reflect that before they even existed, the colour purple was around and – perish the thought – after they have gone, it will still be here..” Will they back down? We’ll see.
Thanks for reading,
Phil and Tom