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Supreme Court of the United States
January 9, 1995, Argued ; March 28, 1995, Decided
[*160] [**1302] [***252] JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question in this case is whether the Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act), 15 U.S.C. §§ 1051-1127 (1988 ed. and Supp. V), permits the registration of a trademark that consists, [*161] purely and simply, of a color. We conclude that, ] sometimes, a color will meet ordinary legal trademark requirements. And, when it does so, no special legal rule prevents color alone from serving as a trademark.
The case before us grows out of petitioner Qualitex Company's use (since the 1950's) of a special shade of green-gold color on the pads that it makes and sells to dry cleaning firms for use on dry cleaning presses. In 1989, respondent Jacobson Products (a Qualitex rival) began to sell its own press pads to dry cleaning firms; and it colored those pads a similar green-gold. In 1991, Qualitex registered the special green-gold color on press pads with the Patent and Trademark Office as a trademark. Registration No. [****6] 1,633,711 (Feb. 5, 1991). Qualitex subsequently added a trademark infringement count, 15 U.S.C. § 1114(1), to an unfair competition claim, § 1125(a), in a lawsuit it had already filed challenging Jacobson's use of the green-gold color.
Qualitex won the lawsuit in the District Court. 21 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1457 (CD Cal. 1991). But, the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set aside the judgment in Qualitex's favor on the trademark infringement claim because, in that Circuit's view, the Lanham Act does not permit Qualitex, or anyone else, to register "color alone" as a trademark. 13 F.3d 1297, 1300, 1302 (1994).
The Courts of Appeals have differed as to whether or not the law recognizes the use of color alone as a trademark. Compare NutraSweet Co. v. Stadt Corp., 917 F.2d 1024, 1028 (CA7 1990) (absolute prohibition against protection of color alone), with In re Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F.2d 1116, 1128 (CA Fed. 1985) (allowing registration of color pink for fiberglass insulation), and Master Distributors, Inc. v. Pako Corp., 986 F.2d 219, 224 (CA8 1993) (declining [****7] to establish per se prohibition against protecting color alone as a trademark). Therefore, this Court granted certiorari. [*162] 512 U.S. 1287 (1994). We now hold that ] there is no rule absolutely barring the use of color alone, and we reverse the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
514 U.S. 159 *; 115 S. Ct. 1300 **; 131 L. Ed. 2d 248 ***; 1995 U.S. LEXIS 2408 ****; 34 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 1161; 63 U.S.L.W. 4227; 95 Cal. Daily Op. Service 2249; 95 Daily Journal DAR 3867; 8 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 653
QUALITEX COMPANY, PETITIONER v. JACOBSON PRODUCTS COMPANY, INC.
Prior History: [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.
Disposition: 13 F.3d 1297, reversed.
color, trademark, competitors, symbol, registration, green-gold, courts, functionality, customers, Patent, pads, Lanham Act, press, secondary meaning, serves, words, manufactured, cases, shade, terms, unfair competition, depletion, producer, products, designs, permits, reasons, usable
Trademark Law, Subject Matter of Trademarks, Nontraditional Trademarks, Color Marks, Trademark Cancellation & Establishment, Registration Procedures, General Overview, Business & Corporate Compliance, Federal Registration, Federal Registration, Principal Register, Particular Subject Matter, Names, Terms Requiring Secondary Meaning, Descriptive & Laudatory Terms, Unfair Competition, Federal Unfair Competition Law, Eligibility for Trademark Protection, Distinctiveness, Fragrance Marks, Patent Law, Subject Matter, Entertainment Industry Falsity & Performance Misattribution, Trade Dress Protection, Ownership, Patents as Property, Sales of Goods, Performance, Strength of Trademark