When I decided to write a mini opinion/editorial on the news that T-Mobile is suing Aio Wireless over the use of Magenta, I honestly didn’t expect such a strong response. I’m not sure why anyone believed I was writing it from the perspective of a legal analyst, I’m no more a legal analyst than I am a professional baseball player. That being said, my concern isn’t whether T-Mobile has a right to protect their trademarks or copyrights, I believe they do… my concern is that of perception. I worry is that it will come off looking as though T-Mobile intends to argue that they own the entire spectrum of the color, not the exact color of Magenta which they in fact do own.
One commenter (hi kalel33!) put it best by saying Caterpillar owns a trademark on a specific color of yellow but all heavy construction equipment are yellow. John Deere owns a specific color of green but there are dozens of other companies making green lawn mowers. Is that the argument I’d bring to court, of course not…but I’m also not a lawyer.
I remain concerned about the fact that T-Mobile and more specifically CEO John Legere has made a habit of attacking AT&T via Twitter, press events, Bloomberg, CNBC and more. How will this lawsuit be interpreted? T-Mobile defending its brand, finding a potential weak spot in AT&T’s suit of armor and exploiting it or nothing more than frivolous lawsuit? I imagine T-Mobile may have to prove the use of the color was intentionally designed to mislead customers, and/or that customers are truly confused by the two shades and believe based on the color that Aio Wireless is a T-Mobile entity.
All that said, the comment that brought up the John Deere/Caterpillar metaphor provided a link to this Orlando launch event (pictured above and below) of Aio and yeah…it totally looks like it could be confused for a T-Mobile party. So, perhaps my response was hasty and since I’m not a professional journalist with my head stuck in the sand, I have no problem admitting to being wrong. At least I feel partly wrong in the sense that I didn’t think my readers or T-Mobile customers in general would feel so strongly that this should move forward.
Let’s also talk about Aio’s use of the word “Simple” when describing their rate plans. Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone owns the word “Simple” and every carrier can and may use it, but in the case of Aio, it just looks funny.
When you add all of this up, and when you consider the imagery, shades of color and verbiage, perhaps T-Mobile has more than enough ammunition to hit these guys with a lawsuit. My initial interpretation that perception of this lawsuit might bring back the negative memories when T-Mobile/Deutsche Telekom sued Engadget Mobile is something I’d like to avoid. I stand by the idea that I don’t want T-Mobile’s actions to be seen as frivolous or unnecessary and I’m afraid they might be. There has already been enough talking heads saying T-Mobile should drop its suit and just battle it out for customers and there’s an argument to be made for that. However, when you step back (something I hadn’t really done the day after the suit was filed) and read the comments you catch a different outlook, T-Mobile should vigorously defend its trademark.
One other idea: John Legere vs Ralph de la Vega cage match…winner takes the color.
Photo Credit: Photo copyright Melanie Edwards/ellamedia.com