The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has officially denied Cheerios’ trademark application for the breakfast yellow it uses on its cereal boxes. Cheerios has been fighting for the past two years to get a trademark on the color, but now joins the majority of companies who were unsuccessful in trademarking a color.
A trademark is a source identifier (i.e. the easiest way for consumers to know who made the product or service). If a company wants to trademark a color it must show that when the consumer sees the color in connection with the goods or services it basically sees the color as a giant sign saying where the goods or services came from. When a company trademarks a color, the protection will be confined to specific uses, and it will only prevent people in their same industry from using it.
One of the best examples of a company successfully trademarking a color is Tiffany & Co. The robin’s egg blue can be spotted from miles away as an indication that whatever is inside the box is not only going to be gorgeous, but most importantly it is going to be from Tiffany’s. Every brand dreams of this type of instant recognition.
Cheerios failed to prove that consumers associate the breakfast yellow with its brand because many other brands have similar cereal boxes in the same color. This fact is not only true, but probably one of the reasons Cheerios wanted the trademark: so it would have the only bright yellow box in the long cereal aisle.
Additionally, Cheerios has not been consistent with the color and has used many different colors in the past.
Cheerios remains hopeful and is not saying cheerio to trademarking the bright yellow just yet.