Lemonade Beats Deutsche Telekom In French Court Over Use Of The Color Magenta

from the when-life-gives-you-magenta dept

Last year we wrote about a New York insurance company called Lemonade being forced by a German court to cease using the color pink/magenta in its branding in Germany after a dispute with Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Mobile. See, DT has a long, long history of using insane trademarks its been granted for the color magenta to go after all kinds of other companies, whether they're actually using that same color or not, and regardless of whether they compete in the same marketplace or not. While Lemonade complied with the court, it then took two further steps. First, it released a Chrome browser extension that strips the color pink out of, well, everything in the user's browser. This was coupled with a #FreeThePink PR campaign. And the, for added measure, Lemonade set out in various European courts to invalidate any claim DT might have to the trademark for the color in the field of financial services.

Well, the first resolution of one of those cases is out and it's a full win for Lemonade. Note that much of the text in the quotes below is from a press release, but the factual aspects of it still stand.

Deutsche Telekom has owned the French trademark on the color pink, or magenta, in the field of financial services (known as ‘class 36’) since it registered this color-mark 25 years ago. No longer. In a ruling issued on December 15, 2020, French authorities found that “there is no evidence of genuine use of this mark for the contested services” by Deutsche Telekom, confirming that “the owner of the contested mark should therefore be deprived of his rights.”

“The French decision hopefully signals a turning point in the battle to stop trademark trolling by Deutsche Telekom and T-Mobile,” said Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade CEO and cofounder. “In recent years DT has banned the use of pink by a technology blog in the US, an aspiring watchmaker seeking crowd-funding on Indiegogo, an invoice processor in Holland, a nine person IT shop in England. That’s nuts. When they tried to extend their monopoly over pink to the insurance industry, we felt it was time to fight back. If some brainiac at Deutsche Telekom had invented the color, their possessiveness would make sense. Absent that, the company’s actions just smack of corporate bully tactics, where legions of lawyers attempt to hog natural resources – in this case a primary color - that rightfully belong to everyone.”

Again, press releases quoting their own subjects in this case, but the points still stand. What's notable about this is two things. First, DT has gotten away with its bullying over the color magenta, largely successfully, chiefly because nobody ever fights back. As Schreiber notes above, this represents a very rare pushback instead. And, perhaps more importantly, Lemonade also notes that it's going to pursue this in other European markets as well.

The whole thing is monumentally dumb on the part of DT. To wield a trademark in an industry in which they do not participate in order to smack around small companies over the use of an extremely common color has nothing to do with how trademark laws are supposed to work. If ever there were a trademark bully crying out to get the tables turned on it, it sure is this one. And it's nice to see Lemonade has gotten its first win.

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Filed Under: germany, magenta, trademark
Companies: deutsche telekom, lemonade, t-mobile


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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 18 Dec 2020 @ 6:07pm

    Wrong target

    That must have been an unpleasant surprise, they were so used to their legal thuggery working to not only have someone fight back but go on the offensive and succeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2020 @ 7:47pm

      Re: Wrong target

      I've just one concern. Does this in any way discourage DT from engaging in their own flavor of insanity/bullying in any other markets?

      If not, then this seems like a semi empty victory. (Lemonade out probably a bunch of resources, and yeah they may have gotten a bit of good PR, but DT unlikely? to change their behavior).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        R.H. (profile), 20 Dec 2020 @ 7:52pm

        Re: Re: Wrong target

        This should make businesses in other fields where DT holds trademarks but doesn't actually compete, think that they may actually be able to win a case. Like Lemonade said, this is just the beginning.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Dec 2020 @ 8:34pm

    Dealt with this at my last job...

    DT is absolutely insane. Don't dare call your product t-anything, otherwise they send you a cease and desist. We didn't even operate remotely in the same business space as DT/t-mobile, and the word after the hyphen had absolutely nothing to do with telecom/mobile/cellular/data/etc... They are big bullies!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2020 @ 2:44am

    since “there is no evidence of genuine use of this mark for the contested services”, as proved in an European court of law, doesn't this also allow Lemonade to sue back Deutsche Telekom for damages and costs, since the claims of Deutsche Telekom were found to be misleading / not genuine?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2020 @ 3:23pm

      Re:

      since the claims of Deutsche Telekom were found to be misleading / not genuine?

      Deutsche Telekom made the claim in German courts that it owned a German trademark on the color magenta in the market of financial services. All parties involved (including Lemonade and the courts) agree that at the time Deutsche Telekom sued Lemonade, they did own that trademark, as issued by the German trademark authority. Further, Deutsche Telekom continues to own that trademark in Germany (though they no longer own it in France).

      On what basis, then, do you argue Deutsche Telekom mislead or made false claims?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2020 @ 10:08am

        Re: Re:

        It is not in the financial services market, and therefore does not use this color in that market.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          R.H. (profile), 20 Dec 2020 @ 7:58pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          In that case, Lemonade needs to file a suit in Germany to invalidate DT's trademark in the financial services market. Based on this article, I think they've already filed that suit it's just that their similar suit in France has finished first.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 21 Dec 2020 @ 6:39am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Financial services is a broad term. I'm not an expert, but perhaps It could include things that a telecom provider may offer such as device insurance and payment plans.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2020 @ 3:18am

    You pay good money to the advertising/marketing folk and all they can come up with for a name is lemonade.
    And then no one else can use your color ... this is big business and they know what they are doing - lol.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Dec 2020 @ 3:22am

    Cool extension, now can i exchange it for UPS dogsht brown? (depending on the kibbled brand)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Pixelation, 19 Dec 2020 @ 9:57am

    Well

    When life gives you lemons...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 Dec 2020 @ 12:04pm

    I hop eyou know..

    Not sure if this is still happening,
    But Paint Names are CR, for each company, Even if they have the same colors. Its the names that are CR, not the color.

    And I find it very strange that DT get a CR on a simple color.
    Even Nike, only has CR on a SHAPE.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 22 Dec 2020 @ 10:00pm

      Re: I hop eyou know..

      And I find it very strange that DT get a CR on a simple color.

      This case has nothing to do with copyright, which is what I assume you mean by "CR". It's about trademark, which though often lumped in as "intellectual property", is quite different. And DT is not the first or only company to get a trademark on a color.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ehud Gavron (profile), 19 Dec 2020 @ 12:41pm

    Pink

    I apologize for only having 3 color bits, so I can only describe 8 colors as different. For me "magenta" is pink.

    I wonder if Pink, the singer, would have had to change her name, because clearly she's a telecommunication company, competes with T-Mobile (/Deutsche Telekom), and causes undoubted customer confusion in the industry.

    Government-provided monopolies (e.g. trademarks) are a godsend to prevent this from happening.

    I can't personally imagine my personal horror if I went to buy a T-Mobile phone and ended up with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mW1dbiD_zDk

    Thank you, French Government. USPTO, are you listening? If not, check out the link.

    Ehud

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Dec 2020 @ 10:09am

    Pink is NOT a primary color.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Hugo S Cunningham (profile), 21 Dec 2020 @ 9:54am

    Magenta or pink? (actually both)

    I was a bit confused by the interchangeable use of pink (pale red) and magenta (aka "fuchsia"), a light purple
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magenta
    But "Lemonade"s press release clarifies this, showing that DT has registered five distinct colors, ranging from pink through magenta (fuchsia), to something even more bluish.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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