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Jamil N. Alibhai quoted in Dallas Business Journal article: “T-Mobile to AT&T’s Aio Wireless: Give me back my magenta!”

Posted on February 13, 2014

Dallas Business Journal:

A judge ruled that T-Mobile owns the color magenta for its marketing purposes.

Can a company own a color? Apparently so, according to a federal judge who has sided with T-Mobile in a trademark lawsuit, saying that Aio Wireless, a subsidiary of Dallas-based AT&T Inc., isn’t allowed to use colors resembling T-Mobile’s promotional “magenta” shade.

The court in a Feb. 10 ruling ordered AT&T to stop using Pantone 676C, a color Aio describes as “plum,” because of fears that it might cause consumers to confuse the two brands.

T-Mobile issued a statement claiming victory in the quarrel over the controversial color, while an Aio spokeswoman said the company disagrees with the court’s ruling but had already decided not to use the color in advertising and store designs.

From a dad’s perspective, it reminds me of when my kids would squabble over crayons.

T-Mobile: Aio, stop using my magenta! Waaaa!

Aio: It’s not magenta, it’s plum.

T-Mobile: Dad, tell Aio to stop using my magenta.

Judge: Aio, stop using magenta. T-Mobile had it first.

T-Mobile: Ha! I told you so.

Aio: Fine. I don’t want it anyway. But it’s still plum.

Seeking deeper legal analysis, I turned to intellectual property attorney Jamil N. Alibhai, a partner at Munck Wilson Mandala LLP in Dallas and chairman of the firm’s litigation section.

“When a certain color is used in a certain way that indicates the source of a product, it can be a protectable trademark,” Alibhai told me.

“Each of these telecom companies uses certain colors on a regular basis,” Alibhai said. “AT&T often uses orange. Sprint uses yellow. T-Mobile uses magenta. The court was saying that when a competitor tries to use a similar color as somebody else in the same industry for marketing its stores, it can infringe the other one’s trademark.”

So when it comes to color, how close is too close?

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