Seeing red

16 March 2006

Having just looked at an old postage certificate I had got a couple of weeks ago and no longer needed, I was shocked to find that the Royal Mail asserts that:

Royal Mail, the Cruciform and the colour red are registered Trade Marks of Royal Mail Group plc.

The colour red? Like, any colour red? Or just the red that pillarboxes come in? Is that why Arsenal changed their strip this season? What about yellow or magenta – can I use them, even though they contain the colour red? What if I were colourblind and inadvertently used it? Would that be wrong?

Incidentally, the parcel the certificate was for, which I sent first thing the morning took two working days to travel just 60 miles, despite being first class – I even paid for the next weight grade up, just in case. Next day delivery my arse. I’ll start respecting their trademark when the dozy bastards work out how to stick to their promises.


2 Responses

It doesn’t apply to all uses, just very specific ones. If you used the colour red in a picture of a pretty sunset, no problem. But if you used it to brand your new postal delivery business, then they’d have issues with you.

For example, EasyGroup have their specific colour of orange trademarked, and so there’s a barrier to other companies using it in the businesses Easy are already in. But if Stelios tries to launch an EasyMobilePhone company, there’s not a chance in hell that they’ll get to brand their phones with their trademark orange. Because Orange would sue them to buggery.

I believe that there’s even some fairly strict criteria for the the range of variation around specific trademarked colours (RGB, CMYK, Pantone, however it’s defined) that’s off limits. But I’m not sure exactly how close you can get to a trademarked shade witthout infringing…

I think it is actually a very common thing for companies to trademark their distinctive colours. I know, for instance, that Cadbury’s has trademarked the colour purple. I think it’s mostly to stop people making the kind of copycat packaging designs that you see in cheap supermarkets.