Colors, Brands, and Trademarks: The Marketing (and Legal) Problem Of Establishing Distinctiveness

The successful registration of a color as a trademark requires the courts to assess whether the color has developed secondary meaning with respect to a specific brand.

Colors, Brands, and Trademarks: The Marketing (and Legal) Problem Of Establishing Distinctiveness

Janet Hoek

University of Otago

Philip Gendall

Massey University


Trademarks are recognized internationally as devices that indicate the source of products and differentiate them from competing products. Trademarks initially denoted the mark of individual craftspeople before expanding to indicate the origin of a product (Peterson, Smith, and Zerrillo, 1999). Because trademarks identify the origin of a product, they enable dissatisfied consumers to seek redress and protect monopolies from the entry of unauthorized goods.

Although initially developed as identifying devices, trademarks also simplify consumers’ purchase processes. Trademarks provide...

Not a subscriber?

Schedule your live demo with our team today

WARC helps you to plan, create and deliver more effective marketing

  • Prove your case and back-up your idea

  • Get expert guidance on strategic challenges

  • Tackle current and emerging marketing themes

We’re long-term subscribers to WARC and it’s a tool we use extensively. We use it to source case studies and best practice for the purposes of internal training, as well as for putting persuasive cases to clients. In compiling a recent case for long-term, sustained investment in brand, we were able to support key marketing principles with numerous case studies sourced from WARC. It helped bring what could have been a relatively dry deck to life with recognisable brand successes from across a broad number of categories. It’s incredibly efficient to have such a wealth of insight in one place.

Insights Team
Bray Leino

You’re in good company

We work with 80% of Forbes' most valuable brands* and 80% of the world's top top-of-the-class agencies.

* Top 10 brands