Cadbury retains hold over its trademarked shade of purple

Pantone 2685 is Cadbury's special colour.

After fighting for almost eight years, Cadbury has finally won a high court battle over its trademark of a certain shade of the colour purple.

The chocolate company applied for the trademark back in October 2004, registering:

The colour purple (Pantone 2685C), as shown in the form of application, applied to the whole visible surface or being the predominant colour applied to the whole visible surface, of the packaging of the goods [for] chocolate in bar and tablet form, chocolate confectionery, chocolate assortments, cocoa-based beverages, chocolate-based beverages, preparations for chocolate-based beverages, chocolate cakes.

Pantone 2685C is also represented by the hex colour code #3B0084, or RGB 59-0-132. Cadbury has got a lot of stick over the intervening eight years for, effectively, trademarking a certain wavelength of the electromagnetic spectrum, but the protected aspect is actually much narrower than has previously been reported. Anyone can use the purple for anything non-chocolate-related, and even other chocolate manufacturers can use it provided it isn't "the predominant colour applied to the whole visual surface" of the packaging.

Nonetheless, Nestlé, Cadbury's biggest rival, opposed the trademark. Their legal argument was that that shade of purple had no distinctive character, had been granted for too broad a range of goods, and had been applied for in bad faith, claiming that Cadbury never intended to use the mark for "the whole visible surface". In addition, Nestlé can't have avoided noticing that one of its own subsidiaries, Wonka, uses an eerily similar shade of purple in its own branding (although Wonka's is #5C2A88). Nestlé won in part, with the Intellectual Property Office ruling that Cadbury's trademark would only apply to chocolate bars and drinking chocolate, but their appeal against even that aspect is what was finally overturned yesterday, when the High Court ruled that the colour has been distinctive of Cadbury for milk chocolate since 1914.

A Cadbury spokesman told Design Week:

We welcome the decision of the High Court which allows us to register as a Trade Mark and protect our famous Colour Purple across a range of milk chocolate products. Our Colour Purple has been linked with Cadbury for more than a century and the British public have grown up understanding its link with our chocolate.

Colour protections are not unique to chocolate bars, but they have had varying degrees of success in other areas. BP attempted to trademark Pantone 348C, a shade of green, in over 20 countries, but slowly had to back away. In Britain, it lost a case it brought in 2000 against a Northern Irish oil company which was also using green on its petrol stations, and has since effectively abandoned Pantone 348C by redefining "BP Green", which is now officially Pantone 355C.

The Easy conglomerate, owners of the travel company easyJet, uses Pantone 021C, but famously got into trouble with the mobile phone company Orangewhich has trademarked the similar shade Pantone 151C – when it started easyMobile in 2004.

It's important to note, though, that all of these protections are specific to sectors. As the BBC put it:

Cadbury's, for example, can argue that their famous shade of purple cannot be used by other chocolate makers. They could not stop a firm making hats from using the same shade though, as they would be in different businesses.

Wearing Cadbury's purple would probably be a bit of a fashion faux-pas, but it's not actually illegal yet.

The protected shade of purple.

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Picture: ANDRÉ CARRILHO
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Leader: Boris Johnson, a liar and a charlatan

The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. 

Boris Johnson is a liar, a charlatan and a narcissist. In 1988, when he was a reporter at the Times, he fabricated a quotation from his godfather, an eminent historian, which duly appeared in a news story on the front page. He was sacked. (We might pause here to acknowledge the advantage to a young journalist of having a godfather whose opinions were deemed worthy of appearing in a national newspaper.) Three decades later, his character has not improved.

On 17 September, Mr Johnson wrote a lengthy, hyperbolic article for the Daily Telegraph laying out his “vision” for Brexit – in terms calculated to provoke and undermine the Prime Minister (who was scheduled to give a speech on Brexit in Florence, Italy, as we went to press). Extracts of his “article”, which reads more like a speech, appeared while a terror suspect was on the loose and the country’s threat level was at “critical”, leading the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, to remark: “On the day of a terror attack where Britons were maimed, just hours after the threat level is raised, our only thoughts should be on service.”

Three other facets of this story are noteworthy. First, the article was published alongside other pieces echoing and praising its conclusions, indicating that the Telegraph is now operating as a subsidiary of the Johnson for PM campaign. Second, Theresa May did not respond by immediately sacking her disloyal Foreign Secretary – a measure of how much the botched election campaign has weakened her authority. Finally, it is remarkable that Mr Johnson’s article repeated the most egregious – and most effective – lie of the EU referendum campaign. “Once we have settled our accounts, we will take back control of roughly £350m per week,” the Foreign Secretary claimed. “It would be a fine thing, as many of us have pointed out, if a lot of that money went on the NHS.”

This was the promise of Brexit laid out by the official Vote Leave team: we send £350m to Brussels, and after leaving the EU, that money can be spent on public services. Yet the £350m figure includes the rebate secured by Margaret Thatcher – so just under a third of the sum never leaves the country. Also, any plausible deal will involve paying significant amounts to the EU budget in return for continued participation in science and security agreements. To continue to invoke this figure is shameless. That is not a partisan sentiment: the head of the UK Statistics Authority, Sir David Norgrove, denounced Mr Johnson’s “clear misuse of official statistics”.

In the days that followed, the chief strategist of Vote Leave, Dominic Cummings – who, as Simon Heffer writes in this week's New Statesman, is widely suspected of involvement in Mr Johnson’s article – added his voice. Brexit was a “shambles” so far, he claimed, because of the ineptitude of the civil service and the government’s decision to invoke Article 50 before outlining its own detailed demands.

There is a fine Yiddish word to describe this – chutzpah. Mr Johnson, like all the other senior members of Vote Leave in parliament, voted to trigger Article 50 in March. If he and his allies had concerns about this process, the time to speak up was then.

It has been clear for some time that Mr Johnson has no ideological attachment to Brexit. (During the referendum campaign, he wrote articles arguing both the Leave and Remain case, before deciding which one to publish – in the Telegraph, naturally.) However, every day brings fresh evidence that he and his allies are not interested in the tough, detailed negotiations required for such an epic undertaking. They will brush aside any concerns about our readiness for such a huge challenge by insisting that Brexit would be a success if only they were in charge of it.

This is unlikely. Constant reports emerge of how lightly Mr Johnson treats his current role. At a summit aiming to tackle the grotesque humanitarian crisis in Yemen, he is said to have astounded diplomats by joking: “With friends like these, who needs Yemenis?” The Foreign Secretary demeans a great office of state with his carelessness and posturing. By extension, he demeans our politics. 

This article first appeared in the 21 September 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The revenge of the left