Perhaps more valuable than some of its pieces of jewellery is Tiffany & Co.’s interminable use of the striking shade of blue, variously described as “robin’s egg blue” or “forget-me-not blue,” on its gift boxes, shopping bags and other promotional materials. The shade has become known as “Tiffany Blue” and is registered as a trademark in the United States (Registration No. 2,359,351).

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The company’s website suggests that the colour “may have been chosen because of the popularity of the turquoise gemstone in 19th-century jewellery,” but whatever the reason, Tiffany & Co. had the business savvy to select a shade that is timeless and stands apart from the traditional black jewellery gift box. Use of the colour has become a symbol of elegance and desirability, so much so that there are those who opt for a “Tiffany Blue” themed wedding with centrepieces, decorations and favours featuring the luxurious hue. The downside, of course, is that counterfeiters and others seek to take unfair advantage of the notoriety of the colour.

The protection of colours as registered trade-marks is a growing phenomenon.

The protection of colours as registered trade-marks is a growing phenomenon. For example, UPS has registered the colour brown as applied to the visible surface of its delivery vehicles and uniforms as a trade-mark in Canada, in association with its delivery services (Registration Nos. TMA528,998 and TMA528,999). Similarly, Wedgwood has registered the use of its particular shade of blue as applied to the whole of the visible surface of a box, in association with jewellery and porcelain (Registration No. TMA689,472). Not only can colour be protected as a trade-mark in Canada, the shape of a product or its packaging can be registered as a distinguishing guise as well, provided that it has been used in Canada to distinguish the goods or services in association with which it is used from those of others. Brand owners should therefore carefully consider what is outside the box as much as the product itself.