Brief Fact Summary. Qualitex Co. (Plaintiff) sought to register a trademark on a color.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Color on its own may be registered as a trademark.
Issue. May color on its own be registered as a trademark?
Held. (Breyer, J.) Yes. Color on its own may be registered as a trademark. The Lanham Act, which establishes federal trademark law, is quite liberal in regards to the universe of things that can be trademarked. Any symbol that carries a secondary meaning linking it with a particular product may be trademarked. There seems to be no reason why a color cannot fall within this definition. Defendant’s arguments to the contrary are mostly based on pre-Lanham Act common law. Defendant also argues that since an infinite number of colors exist, color should not be trademarked. To establish a blanket prohibition for a problem that rarely occurs is unnecessary. Reversed.
Discussion. A number of things of tenuous tangibility have become trademarks: a bottle shape (Coca-Cola) and sound (NBC Broadcasting Co.). It would follow that allowing color to be the subject of a trademark is not unusual.