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Color Infringement: Microsoft vs. Google

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Chrome vs Windows color logo

Lawyers for Microsoft, Inc. have filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the company's new Chrome OS color scheme infringes on the Windows logo color scheme.


Can Microsoft really own “the four colors” used in its logo and prevent others in the industry from using them even if the logo is completely different? One of the basic principles of color trademark laws in the US is that a functional color cannot be trademarked. In other words, if a company makes lawn mowers, they can’t trademark green because green is the color of lawns and is therefore a functional color. Contrary to urban myths, John Deere does not own green. (They did trademark a green paint but that’s their paint formula in a special shade of green.)

Consequently, one could say that colors and especially RGB (red, green, blue) are functional colors of all computer operating systems. Without these colors, we’d be stuck with black and white images and text on our monitors, as was the case many decades ago. I conclude that a multi-colored logo is in fact descriptive.

There’s something else that troubles me about this lawsuit: Four specific colors are in question- not just one color such as Dow Corning’s trademarked pink. The issues of color monopoly and color depletion become quite serious in Microsoft’s claim.

Although Microsoft has filed a patent for the colored logo, that’s completely different than their subsequent claim that they OWN the four colors. If Google’s Chrome logo were four circles in a layout similar to Microsoft’s four rectangles, one could argue consumer confusion. That is not the case with Chrome’s compact circular logo.

A final detail: The four colors are NOT the same! Did you notice that Microsoft uses an orange-red and Google’s Chrome a pure red. Likewise, the greens are completely different. Now I’m really on a color crusade to stop the madness!

What do you think?

One last item about truth in reporting: The news piece that reported this lawsuit included a reference to a quote by Yale law professor Amanda Reagan that Apple was forced “to load its beautifully colorful logo into Photoshop and desaturate it 80%." in Microsoft v Competitor #126. After considerable time searching for this lawsuit, I can’t find anything. In fact, Ms. Reagan is not listed as Yale Law School faculty on their web site and a search for her name coupled with “law” reveals nothing. (And we think we are deluged with bad information in our world of color consultation!) If any of you can fill in the blanks, please comment.

Source: Microsoft Sues Google For OS Color Infringement -

Color Consultation for Trademark Disputes - COLORCOM

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Jill is the author and designer of the Color Matters website. She's a color consultant who focuses on color psychology and brand identity. See "Who Is Color Matters" at this web site and for more information.


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