Many of his fans know him as ‘The Purple One’. It was apparently his chosen colour. And after the release and subsequent success of Purple Rain, it became synonymous with the pop star for the entirety of his career. We’re talking about Prince, of course, the late global singing sensation who died on 21 April 2016.
And now, his estate has filed an application with the US Patent Office to claim perpetual ownership of Prince’s colour purple in movies and any music. Paisley Park Enterprises, the company charged with maintaining Prince’s legacy, filed the application to trade mark the colour purple.
Trade mark application details
The trade mark application says: “The [trademark] consists of the colour purple alone.” Specifically, Prince’s estate is aiming to secure exclusive rights to any purple shades considered similar to ‘Love Symbol #2’. This is a colour created by Pantone in 2017, to honour the singer after his death of a drug overdose two years ago.
The standardised custom colour was devised: “to represent and honour international icon, Prince.”, according to a press release at the time. It says: “The (naturally) purple hue, represented by his “Love Symbol #2” was inspired by his custom-made Yamaha purple piano, which was originally scheduled to go on tour with the performer before us untimely passing at the age of 57.”
The entertainment advisor for Prince’s estate, Troy Carter, says: “The colour purple was synonymous with who Prince was and will always be. This is an incredible way for his legacy to live on forever.”
The new trade mark application says that the artist has been linked with purple as an integral part of his identity since 1984. This is the year Purple Rain was released and became massively successful. The album, which is a soundtrack to the film of the same name, dominated global charts and has sold tens of millions.
How does claiming a colour work?
It is legally possible to protect how a colour is used, and more particularly a specific shade of a colour, within a specific industry. For example, Prince’s estate is attempting to stop any other musician covering their stage or draping themselves in purple.
There is precedent for colour protection. Back in 2012, a US court granted shoe producer Christian Louboutin a trade mark for the famous red soles of his shoes. This followed a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent over a line of shoes that looked very similar.
The court decided that the red soles of Louboutin’s shoes have “the requisite distinctiveness to merit protection.”
Another example of a long-running feud over the rights to a colour is shown between Cadbury and Nestle. There is a lot of evidence to show that colour is now featuring more heavily in trade mark applications from big brands. It seems it’s considered at least as important as shape or image.
In Prince’s case, the colour trade mark application is one of many to come out of his estate since his death. Paisley Park Enterprises has also applied to trade mark the words ‘purple one’ in the context of music, video games, concerts and some consumer goods.
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