The German Federal Supreme Court decides on the Scope of Protection of a Color Trademark

In a decision of September 18, 2014 (I ZR 228/12 “Yellow Dictionaries”) the German Federal Supreme Court concluded that a defendant who distributed language learning software for 33 languages in a yellow packaging together with its own logo infringes the color mark “YELLOW” for bilingual dictionaries in print form of the plaintiff. The color trademark “YELLOW” was registered due to acquired distinctiveness since the plaintiff distributes dictionaries since 1956 in a yellow cover. The Supreme Court concluded that the defendant used the yellow color as a trademark. Usually, the use of a color on a packaging is understood by the consumer as a design feature and only in exceptional cases as a trademark. On the market for bilingual dictionaries, however, colors have a distinguishing function. This also affects the neighboring market of language learning software.