What is yellow, miniscule, speak gibberish as their mother tongue, and aid ‘villains’ as their sole life mission? The answer is simple: A Minion. First introduced and popularised from the Despicable Me movie franchise as well as the spin-off movie titled Minion Rush, they have now gathered a lot of fan following from children and adults alike.
For the first time, taking inspiration from a movie, the Pantone Color Matching System (Pantone system) has introduced a new colour ‘minion yellow’. The Pantone System is an international coding system, whereby a trademark having an individual or a combination of colours, obtains the specific colour(s) from Colour Referencers under this system. This is the most used system worldwide and is a standardized colour reproduction system which helps manufacturers, designers, artists and everyone around the world from different locations to refer this system in order to ensure that the colours chosen by them for their respective goods match, without having to contact each other directly, and by merely quoting or getting a Pantone system generated designated ID or number.
As per reports, it is the first time in three years since the Pantone System has released a new hue/tone of colour. Various brands have tried to enforce an exclusive claim to a sliver of the vibgyor in the courts, just like Minion Yellow joining the historical list of trademarked colours, viz Coke Red (Pantone 484), Starbuck Emerald Green (Pantone 3298C), Cadbury Purple (Pantone 2865C), Tiffany Blue (Pantone 1837), Barbie Pink (Pantone 219), Christian Louboutin Red-Bottom (Pantone 18 – 1663 TPX), Mc Donalds Golden Archs (Pantone Yellow 123), and University of Texas’ burnt Orange Hue (Pantone 159) amongst others.
According to the Indian Trademark Manual, a single colour can be registered as a trademark, provided it is a “very unusual and peculiar” colour in the trade, acknowledged by both traders and consumers, aiding as the badge of origin for the goods or services to which it relates. Furthermore, the manual also states that consumers as well as traders do not usually identify colour per se as the source of goods and services and hence, a single colour is accomplished of symbolizing the origin of a product or service only in extraordinary situations. Marks consisting of a single colour maybe objected on the following grounds:
- That the colour lacks the inherent capacity to distinguish;
- That it is under public interest to not limit availability of colour for other traders.
The posing problem, is the way by which a common man of prudent nature differentiates two or more similar shades of colors, the same differing for various people. Despite the fact that a geographic depiction is possible by denoting any international system of colour like the Pantone system, it is almost always impossible for a colour to be innately distinctive. Hence, reierating what was exemplified above, a trademark owner has to ensure via proof that the said colour has acquired ‘distinctiveness’ by way of continuous and prolonged use. Upon registration of same, exclusive rights are granted under Section 28 of the Trademark Act (herein after the Act) and rights are granted to the party to initiate infringement proceedings if the case comes within the four corners of Section 29 of the Act and such party can obtain injunction under section 135 of the Act.[i] The Indian judiciary in some instances has acknowledged colour as a part of trade dress and provided protection to it, such as in Colgate Palmolive Company v. Anchor Health & Beauty Care Pvt. Ltd.[ii] and Cadbury Ltd. v. ITC Ltd.[iii]
Surely minion fans and IP connoisseurs alike, world over, are going ‘bananas’ over this new and enigmatic IP development!
[i]CS (OS) No. 3760/2014.
[ii] 108 (2003) DLT 51.