AT&T ordered to stop infringing on T-Mobile’s magenta trademark color by Federal Court

AIO

Aio Wireless – an AT&T subsidiary – caused something of a stir a few months back when it started using what it called “plum” coloring to market itself. Although the difference between “plum” and magenta are there, it wasn’t a distinctive enough difference, and could’ve harmed Tmo’s brand image. And, although using a similar color to someone else isn’t a crime generally, with Tmo, Magenta is such a huge part of its identity, that for anyone else to use it (or anything like it) was quite audacious.

T-Mobile filed an infringement lawsuit against AT&T and Aio Wireless back in August 2013.

You’ll be glad to know that today, an announcement has been made, and the Federal Court has ruled that AT&T should stop willfully infringing on T-Mobile’s trademark. The decision was made after a three-day hearing:

“A federal court has halted AT&T’s transparent effort to infringe on T-Mobile’s distinctive magenta trademark. T-Mobile [U.S. Inc.] is very pleased that the federal court in Texas has ordered Aio Wireless, a subsidiary of AT&T, to stop infringing T-Mobile’s magenta trademark. The court agreed with us that Aio can’t continue infringing T-Mobile’s magenta mark by using large blocks of what it has called “plum,” and told Aio to stop using magenta or similar colors in all of its marketing and advertising, including stores, web sites and social media.  The Court’s ruling, coming after extensive argument and a three-day hearing, validates T-Mobile’s position that wireless customers identify T-Mobile with magenta and that T-Mobile’s use of magenta is protected by trademark law.”

This is a small, but important, victory for T-Mobile. In the current market space, and with the moves it’s made over the past 12 months, it’s clear that the company has to protect its trademarks, its brand image and all that goes along with that. Magenta is T-Mobile (and perhaps any shade of pink or purple for that matter).

Perhaps if Randall Stephenson starts walking around with long hair, leather jacket and a pink/black t-shirt we can expect another lawsuit…

Via: T-Mobile

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  • redman12

    Out of all the colors, they choose a color similar to T-Mobile.. That was on purpose.

    • abolds4397

      They were just trying to snatch some of T-Mobile’s business!

      • curly4

        Tell me of a phone company that is not trying to get someones else’s customers.

    • kiiKane

      Of course it was on purpose :) At&t are utter scumbags. However plum is just as close to magenta as magenta is to red. Should Verizon have a go at tmobile? What about Virgin mobile, they use red?

      It’s insanity to bar someone from using a vaguely similar colour. Otherwise there was nothing similar in the branding. Logo’s were entirely different, names different etc.
      I’m torn between enjoying at&t getting served and annoyed that this kind of judgement occurred.

      • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

        If Vodafone re-entered the US market, Verizon would have to stop using red. Verizon uses red for telecommunications under license from Vodafone, who used it long before them in the US and internationally.

        • curly4

          That would depend if Verizon the right in the US to use red when they bought out Vodafone’s shares.

    • jeremyvbk

      Or maybe because it has a shade of color that is attractive to the brain. You do know certain colors trigger the brain to buy. So maybe Tmobile might wanna watch for lawsuits from other companies with Magenta shaded colors

      • philyew

        Other companies in the competing market, who have taken the trouble to incorporate a closely-related color as a formal part of their branding, and did so before Deutsche Telekom…?

        Not sure there are too many of those around.

        • jeremyvbk

          My point is, since when is a color a trade mark? Is white or black phones a trade mark of apple now? So no more phones can be black or white? That magenta color looks more closely related to Verizon red. Looks like Verizon needs T-Mobile to change colors

        • KingCobra

          It’s a trade dress. If you go into business competing against a brand and use similar color to them in attempt to confuse consumers then you can be sued and told to stop using it as well. If AIO wasn’t in the Teleco industry then T-Mobile wouldn’t have had the right to sue them.

        • jeremyvbk

          And where is the proof they were using the plum color to use the “success” of T-Mobile. They used the color because it is a color pleasing to the eye. It is all about psychological advertising. There is a huge difference from magenta to the plum color. Stop getting butthurt over something so stupid

        • philyew

          When the human eye can distinguish around 10 million colors, what are the odds picking something so close the TM’s registered color was just because it was “pleasing to the eye”?

        • jeremyvbk

          The color plum is a shade of purple, it has more a a relationship to that than magenta.

        • philyew

          It depends which color models you are working from. Plum is a quaternary color in the RYB model, but the the models used for printing (CMYK) and display (RGB) refer to magenta derivatives and in CMYK Pantone 676C is made up of 9% cyan, 100% magenta ,12% yellow and 32% black.

        • philyew

          Cornell University Law School web site suggests that the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co. (93-1577), 514 U.S. 159 (1995) established color as a component of the trade mark.

          The color has to be registered and be a part of the distinctive nature of the mark, so the issue of black and white phones would almost certainly not arise.

          If you search for “Verizon” or “T-Mobile” on the Encycolorpedia web site, you will find a specific color code listed. The Verizon color is described as “a shade of red”. The TM color is described as “a shade of magenta-pink”. It may be pertinent to this ruling that Aio’s color, Pantone 676C, described as “plum” in the judge’s legal opinion, is also described as “a shade of magenta-pink” in the Encycolorpedia site – suggesting that the relationship between the TM and Aio colors may be scientifically much closer than your perception recognizes.

        • jeremyvbk

          It is magical Verizon and virgin mobile get along fine. T-Mobile is trying to be a troll like usual. It more sounds like the apple Samsung patent lawsuits over round edge phones and phone designs. Looks like ATT has to take bright spot to court, Verizon takes virgin mobile to court. All this has to do is Legere trying to piss off ATT mvno AIO.

        • philyew

          You asked a question, and I answered it.

          The following is from a US Patent and Trademark Office report to Congress in 2011:

          “Trademark owners have a legal right and an affirmative obligation to protect their trademark assets from misuse. If the owner does not proactively police the relevant market and enforce its rights against violators, the strength of the mark, the owner’s ability to exclude others from using the same or similar marks in the marketplace, and the value of the asset all will diminish….However, widespread unauthorized uses may cause the mark to lose its trademark significance altogether and fall into the public domain.”

          http://www.uspto{dot}gov/ip/TMLitigationReport_final_2011April27.pdf

          Failure to protect the trade mark can ultimately weaken it against subsequent encroachment.

        • jeremyvbk

          Have you not heard of Rhetorical questions? It is to bring up the point of how many other companies in the same industry get along. And how many people got confused because of the color? Plum is actually a shade of purple, which is different from magenta-pink.

        • philyew

          A rhetorical question is meant to make a point without it needing an answer. Unfortunately, your point appeared to be that this ruling was setting a new legal precedent on the use of colors as trade marks, which is incorrect.

          I have no idea how many people were confused by the color, but clearly the judge felt that a risk of such existed and, under the law, TM were entitled to a remedy.

          The color used by Aio was described as “plum” in the legal narrative, but doesn’t directly correspond to “plum” in the color models. There, the color used, Pantone 676C, is described as a shade of magenta-pink.

        • izick

          Aio isn’t an MVNO. It’s a wholly owned subsidiary.

  • Allen Enriquez

    Huh! As always At&t and it’s attempt to grab T-Mobile US Customers hard work unique trades! When TMUS Stock Jump to 43 I was shocked!

    • Allen Enriquez

      I wonder how much did TMUS won!?

      • philyew

        Financial judgment hasn’t been announced yet.

  • S. Ali

    Doesn’t matter, ATT is planning to roll AIOWireless into Cricket.

  • steveb944

    It’s about time they stopped this. Good job T-Mobile protecting your stuff.

  • sushimane

    I can’t believe T-Mobile got away with the color haha.

    • fentonr

      Its not so much the color as it was a competitor attempting to confuse customers by using something too close to a trademark (the color). The key is confuse, if the courts didn’t think it was potentially confusing customers, Tmo wouldn’t have won.

  • ccnet005

    if Legere were the tough guy he portrays himself as, he should have rebranded metro PCS with AT&T blue and kept this out of the courts.

    • Spanky

      The MetroPCS logo already has blue and orange. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is already a lawsuit in the works.

  • KlausWillSeeYouNow

    To all of you who said they couldn’t win this…

    *sticks out tongue*

    That is all. Good for T-Mobile.

    • Jared

      I’d be careful, T-Mobile owns the color of that tongue you’re flashing around ;)

  • Jay J. Blanco

    Another blow to the bitter Ex!

  • Eric Blackman

    Love it. And I agree with it. Although the two Aio stores in my general area are already so faded, they’re more pastel pink.

    • fentonr

      Really? Yikes, I guess AT&T can’t even keep a store looking nice.

      • Spanky

        I’ve seen some filthy looking T-Mobile stores as well.

        • fentonr

          So have I but aio is only about a year old. That was quick.

        • Spanky

          A tell-tale sign of a cheap brand. I’ve never actually seen an Aio store – are they regional?

        • fentonr

          I was in Florida about a month ago for work and I saw some there. I believe they’re mostly in MetroPCS markets.

  • http://twitter.com/SParKlngCyaNide SparklingCyanide

    I know it may sound as if it’s something small, but the Magenta color is HUGE part of T-Mobile’s identity. After all, I’ve lovingly referred to T-Mobile as Magenta for years and will continue to!

  • KB

    Looks more like Metro PCS purple than T-Mobile magenta.

    • fentonr

      I think the color was chosen to be in-between the two. Just speculation but it seems pretty clear that aio was created to compete with T-Mobile and try to take their customers.

    • Chris

      It wasn’t the magenta colors. But if you look at the tent color, some parts of their site (when it was first release of course), brochures they were passing out etc, aio was using lots of shade of this particular color. The problem with that is when you lighten up this current color in their logo, the patented German Tele Magenta color emerges.

  • Kevin Snyder

    It’s a completely different color. Ridiculous. What, I can’t paint my tractor turquoise because John Deere?

    • gsm1900

      You sure can. But… if you started a tractor company that is directly in competition with John Deere AND they had the color patented, the same thing would happen. T-Mobile isnt going around suing people for using similar shades…. they went after AT&T because AT&T specifically chose this color to confuse customers.

    • philyew

      Would you be using it to sell, distribute, or advertise a competing product? Is turquoise a closely-related color to John Deere green?

      The answer to both in your scenario is no, so you wouldn’t be in the same situation at all.

  • http://www.jmillionnyc.com/ Jason Million

    the way its presented, at first glance you could confuse or consider to be t-mobile or a variation of them. im glad they won the case on this.

  • Spanky

    The MetroPCS logo features blue and orange colors, both of which can be considered an integral part of AT&T’s brand. Hmmmm…

    • sushimane

      Plum and orange is metropcs but altel was blue and white.

  • http://twitter.com/tabascotx Mike Roberson

    Is Att so scared of their image that they wont use their Trademark Orange?

  • Ordeith

    Better Network, better phones, and they even get updates.
    I have been a T-Mobile customer for over 10 years and I am seriously looking at aio.
    I can see why T-Mobile would be scared of them.