British chocolate manufacturer Cadbury has successfully secured a trademark for the color used in its purple candy wrappers. The company has been using the purple packaging for more than 100 years and began seeking to secure exclusive rights to the shade in 1995, according to The Birmingham Post.
The British Intellectual Property Office (IPO) granted Cadbury the trademark in 2008. But Nestle, Cadbury's major competitor, objected to the registration. They argued that, in the language of the IPO, "the trade mark is one which is not unique to the applicant and should be free for everyone in that line of trade to use."
The move by Nestle to file an official "notice of opposition" with the IPO thrust the two chocolatiers into a dispute that lasted three years.
This month, the IPO ruled that the particular shade of purple known as Pantone 2865c was "distinctive" enough to merit a trademark, Marketing Week reports.
But the trademark only extends to certain Cadbury wrappers, and Nestle can still appeal the decision, according to The Independent.
The ruling gives Cadbury exclusive rights to use the color on packing for "chocolate in bar and tablet form as well as eating and drinking chocolate," Marketing Week reports. Cadbury's competitors, including Nestle, will still be free to use purple packaging for items in other categories.
A Nestle spokesperson told Confectionery News that the decision was "in line with Nestle's request."
Trademark attorney Fiona McBride told Marketing Week that color trademarks are difficult to secure:
[Color] registrations are notoriously difficult to obtain, largely because it can be difficult to prove sufficient use to demonstrate that the [color] has become synonymous with the brand in the mind of the consumer. Brand owners should definitely continue to consider registering a [color] for trade mark protection where they believe that it has become a powerful and distinctive part of their brand.
That said, Marketing Week also reported that Tiffany's and Christian Louboutin are currently trying secure rights to their respective blue and red colors.