Should I Claim Color In My Trademark Application?

FedExIf your trademark or logo includes color, then you may wonder whether your federal trademark application should include a claim of color. If this is your first trademark application, then likely you should not make a claim for color. When no claim of color is made and the trademark is presented in black and white then the registration is presumed to cover the mark when presented in any color.

However, if color in your mark is very important so that you would want the best chance of stopping others using your color scheme with different words/characters, then you may want to make a claim for color in your trademark. For example, Federal Express has a trademark application and various registrations on the mark FedEx with “Fed” claimed in purple and the “Ex” claimed in orange. Therefore, it might be possible for FedEx to claim that the use of “LadFx” infringes its trademark, if LadFx was presented in the same color scheme where “Lad” was in purple and “Fx” was in orange. This claim is not guaranteed, but FedEx would have a better chance if they have a registration claiming color, than if they did not.

However, these registrations claiming color where not the first trademark registrations that Federal Express filed. Instead, one of Federal Express’ first trademark registration, filed in 1984, did not make any claim for color. This registration from 1984 provides a standard character claim to “FEDEX,” alone without any claims to style or color. Standard character marks cover the words/characters presented in any font stylistic arrangement or color. Therefore standard character marks can be considered broader than special form marks claiming style elements, logos, or color.

If you look at other brands you’ll find the same pattern. When a company files a trademark application claiming color, often this is not their first application. Many times the company first files a trademark application claiming only standard characters or a logo without color and then later they file a subsequent trademark application(s) claiming color:

  1. Startbucks, first standard characters, later a color logo;
  2. Google, first standard characters, later claims of color;
  3. Subway, first standard characters, later claims of color;
  4. Apple logo, first the logo with no claim of color, later claims over apple logo with horizontal color stripes.

MSNBC filed a trademark application claiming standard character mark on the same day that it also filed a separate application claiming color (Why companies have multiple trademark registrations on the same mark?).

According to a search of the USPTO records, other brands have not bothered to claim color in trademark registrations on their names, such as, T-Mobile, IBM, and Harley-Davidson Motorcycles.

Generally the words / standard characters of the mark are more distinctive (if the words / standard characters are not distinctive, consider combining the words with style or logo elements as a special form mark). So the words/characters of the mark tend to be more important than the color elements of the mark. Therefore, for your first federal trademark application you should probably not make a claim for color, unless color is very important. And if color is very important, you may want to consider filing two applications, one as standard character and one claiming color.

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