Unilever feeling blue after Supreme Court reopens Nivea colour trademark battle

By Andrew MCDOUGALL contact

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever feeling blue after Supreme Court reopens Nivea colour trademark battle

Related tags: Trademark

Nivea may have taken steps towards trademarking the shade of blue it uses on its iconic tins after the Federal Supreme Court of Germany reversed a 2013 decision made by the Federal Patent Court meaning the battle between Beiersdorf and Unilever has reopened.

The case was about the deletion of the registered colour trademark, Nivea Blue, which relates to the shade Pantone 280 C.

Prompted by challenges from Unilever two years ago, the Federal Patent Court ordered the removal of the colour trademark from the German trademark register; however, now the case will begin again.

Beiersdorf says it welcomes this decision as it regards the colour as a trademark and not only as a decorative background.

​[The colour Nivea Blue] is the “face” of the brand and the foundation for the global design language of Nivea products. Its wide use over a long period and across the brand portfolio has ensured that consumers around the world associate the characteristic blue with the absolute highest skin care competence,”​ says Board Member Ralph Gusko.

“For this reason we will spare no efforts in protecting the iconic color image as well as all other brand and design rights.”

Reopened

Beiersdorf says it has used the characteristic blue for its Nivea skin care brand since 1925 but only registered it as a so-called trademark colour in 2007.

Anglo-Dutch consumer products firm Unilever demanded the cancellation of the ‘colourmark’ on grounds that the German firm used the blue purely for decorating the Nivea logo. Unilever’s rival Dove soap and skin care brand also uses blue on its product packaging.

Germany’s patent court cancelled it in 2013 and Beiersdorf appealed the decision. This latest ruling means the case over the use of Panton 280 C in product packaging is being reopened, and Beiersdorf may be closer to regaining the trademark.

The Supreme Court said in its decision​ that a colour could be registered as brand-specific if half of consumers linked a product to that colour, less than the 75% of the federal patent court had demanded two years ago.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Packaging

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