Thursday, August 29, 2013

T-Mobile sues AT&T over the color magenta

We've seen some (what we believed to be) somewhat frivolous trademark disputes and lawsuits in the past, but this one has to take the cake, or rather the coloring book. T-Mobile has sued little-known AT&T prepaid brand Aio Wireless over the color magenta, AllThingsD reported on Wednesday.

Here's what the filing says, in part:
In early 2013, T-Mobile publicly disclosed plans to compete against the incumbent telecommunications providers in a new way: by offering telecommunications services without the need for consumers to enter into a two-year or annual service contract.

The dominant telecommunications provider, AT&T, responded by setting up a wholly owned subsidiary, Aio, which -— out of all of the colors in the universe —- chose magenta to begin promoting no-contract wireless communications services in direct competition with T-Mobile.

AT&T’s subsidiary’s use of magenta to attract T-Mobile customers is likely to dilute T-Mobile’s famous magenta color trademark, and to create initial interest confusion as to the source or affiliation of AT&T’s subsidiary’s business.
T-Mobile is referring to its Un-carrier plans, which remove the carrier subsidy typically seen and replaces it wit a down payment and monthly device payments. T-Mobile makes up for the difference with lower cost service plans, which often add up to savings for customers.

Customer confusion is at the heart of many of these filings. In an email, T-Mobile continued:
When consumers see magenta in the wireless world, they think T-Mobile. But AT&T, through its subsidiary Aio Wireless, has been trying to get a free ride from T-Mobile’s success as America’s Un-carrier by using magenta in its marketing. We filed this lawsuit to stop them, and to protect T-Mobile’s powerful magenta trademark.
Aio is owned by AT&T, but has its own, separate stores in the following markets: Houston, Atlanta and the Florida cities of Orlando, Tampa, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Fort Myers, Naples, Miami, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

On Wednesday, T-Mobile USA CEO John Legere took to Twitter to take a swipe at AT&T. The tweet was met with some acerbic replies.

You be the judge of just how close Aio's magenta comes to T-Mobile's (above). Notably, T-Mobile does have a trademark for a magenta square, although it it still an open question if the company owns a trademark on the color, period.

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