Colour name registration restricted


The Colombian Trademark Office (TO) has restricted the possibility of registering a trademark including a colour name to distinguish plastic service tubes (Resolution 10872-2004, June 15 2004).

Colombian law provides that tubes, pipes and cables use a standard colour according to the service for which they will be employed. Thus:

  • drinking water pipes are white;

  • non-drinking hot and cold water pipes are beige;

  • telephone and electricity wiring is green;

  • sewage pipes are yellow; and

  • rain water pipes are orange.

The purpose of the colour code is to avoid confusion when making repairs.

Ralco SA, a manufacturer of plastic tubes, applied to register the word mark LINEA AZUL with a 'blue line' design ('linea azul' meaning blue line in Spanish) for products in Class 6 of the Nice Classification. Two competitors, Tubotec SA and PVC Gerfor SA, opposed the application on the basis that the mark was misleading and lacked distinctiveness. Tubotec and Gerfor also argued that blue, which is a primary colour, could become of mandatory use for plastic tubes with a particular purpose (eg, industrial waste). Therefore, Ralco should not be given an undue advantage over competitors by being granted exclusive rights in that colour.

The TO upheld the opposition. It ruled that considering the legal requirements and the characteristics demanded for this kind of product, the mark LINEA AZUL lacked distinctiveness for the goods in relation to which registration was sought (Resolution 18684-2003). On appeal, the decision was reversed, but on final appeal the TO refused the application.

Fernando Triana, Triana Uribe & Michelsen, Bogota

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