Santander sees red in trademark colour dispute

Santander has recently lost a trademark dispute for a particular shade of red to the German savings banks Sparkassen.

According to The Financial Times, Sparkassen registered a trademark for the shade “Red HKS 13” in 2007. The German banking group then went on to use this colour on their branches and in their logo, gradually encouraging it to become a source identifier for their brand.

However, in 2015, Santander, who have been increasing their number of branches across Germany and use a similar red for their brand, tried to have the German bank’s mark annulled because they felt that it would lead to confusion for their customers as to the source identity of their services. They were successful in Germany’s patent court and Sparkassen’s colour trademark was ordered to be cancelled.
This decision was recently reversed by the German federal court who stated that the shade of red trademarked by Sparkassen had become a source identifier for their services and therefore it should not be annulled.

We will have to wait to see if Santander will attempt to appeal this judgement. The President of the German Savings Banks Association, Georg Fahrenschon stated that the decision made by the German federal court is significant and correct since their “bank model is fundamentally different from that of the private banks”.

This is not the first trademark dispute in 2016 in which two companies have been vying over the rights to a certain colour.  Earlier this year confectionary giants Cadbury and Nestle were battling it out over the colour purple for their chocolate bar wrappers. Cadbury had a trademark from 1995 however, when they tried to apply for the colour purple again in 2004, Nestle filed a notice of opposition and their application was rejected.

Colour marks can be extremely useful in helping to distinguish your brand from competitors in the marketplace. Some well-known brands that have colours trademarked are Christian Louboutin (who has successfully trademarked the red soles of their shoes in a number of countries around the world including the US) and the jewellers Tiffany’s who have a trademark for the colour blue.

For advice and more information on searching, acquiring, registering and enforcing Trademarks please visit our website,
Our unique database of trademarks for sale or license could save you time and help protect your brand.