The Cadbury Ruling: Can Colours be Trademarks in the UK?

This post is part of series of blog posts investigating different impacts of UK legislation relevant to Computer Science with a particular focus on:

  • Data Protection Legislation
  • Intellectual Property Protection (incl. Copyright and Trade Marks legislation)
  • Computer Misuse Act (1990)

The Cadbury Ruling: Can Colours be Trademarks in the UK?


In the world of trademarks, protecting brand identity is a crucial aspect of business strategy. Traditionally, trademarks have been associated with distinctive logos, names, and symbols. However, in recent years, the question of whether it is possible to trademark a colour has emerged as a fascinating and contentious legal issue. One of the most notable cases in this arena is the Cadbury case, where the confectionery giant sought to trademark a specific shade of purple. This landmark case has ignited discussions on the scope and limitations of colour trademarks in the UK.

The Cadbury Case:

In 2012, Cadbury was granted permission to register a trademark on a specific shade of purple (Pantone 2685c) that they used on several of their packaging for their chocolate confectionery. However, Nestlé, a competitor of Cadbury, opposed this registration, arguing that the colour purple lacked the distinctiveness required for trademark protection. Nestlé won this appeal which meant that Cadbury lost the battle to secure rights over the colour.

Can Colours be Trademarks?

The question of whether colours can be trademarks is not a straightforward one. Traditionally, trademarks were associated with words, logos, and symbols, but the evolving nature of business and branding has led to a broader interpretation of what can be considered a distinctive identifier.

In the Cadbury case, the court acknowledged that colours, in principle, can function as trademarks if they meet the distinctiveness requirement. However, the challenge lies in establishing that a specific colour has acquired distinctive character through use in the marketplace.

Distinctiveness and Acquired Character:

The distinctive character of a colour is crucial for its eligibility as a trademark. In the Cadbury case, the court held that Cadbury’s use of the purple colour had not acquired sufficient distinctiveness, and therefore, it could not be registered as a trademark. The court emphasized the need for evidence demonstrating that the colour had become associated exclusively with Cadbury’s products in the minds of consumers.

Practical Implications:

The Cadbury ruling has significant implications for businesses seeking to protect their brand colours in the UK. To successfully register a colour as a trademark, companies must provide compelling evidence of the colour’s association with their products in the eyes of consumers. This may include long-term and extensive use of the colour in advertising, packaging, and marketing materials.


While the Cadbury ruling established that colours can, in principle, be registered as trademarks in the UK, the distinctiveness requirement poses a significant challenge for businesses. Companies must carefully consider the evidence they present to establish the acquired character of a colour in the marketplace. As the landscape of trademark law continues to evolve, the Cadbury case serves as a benchmark, shaping the boundaries of what can be considered a distinctive and protectable trademark in the realm of colours.

This article was generated with the help of ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence language model developed by OpenAI, and is provided for educational purposes. The content is created based on general knowledge and may not be fully accurate. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice.
Question 1[2 marks]

What is the primary purpose of trademarks, and why are they essential in the business world?

Question 2[2 marks]

What did Cadbury want to register as a trademark in the UK, and why did they face a challenge?

Question 3[2 marks]

Why is having distinctive character important for a colour to be registered as a trademark, according to the article?

Question 4[2 marks]

What was the court’s decision about the purple colour in the Cadbury case, and what did they say about the evidence needed for trademark registration?

Question 5[2 marks]

What should businesses consider, according to the article, if they want to register colours as trademarks in the UK after the Cadbury ruling?

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