Tonight is the big match in EURO 2012. At least for Holland. The Dutch team play against the German ‘Mannschaft’. Always a game to look out for, but especially now, since Holland lost their first game.
Each European soccer championship is always surrounded by merchandising; companies wanting to profit from the popularity of the tournament and the nationalism of the fans. In Holland everything is orange now, the color of the national team.
From a trademark point of view, colors are difficult to claim. Let alone color combinations like the national flag. National flags are explicitly excluded form trademark protection. However, this doesn’t mean that, for instance, the Dutch flag (horizontal red, white and blue) cannot function as a trademark in other countries.
Take RE/MAX, a big US real estate company. RE/MAX has used its horizontal color scheme since as early as 1974. In 1989 the company trademarked the scheme. For many years they have vigorously protected the colors form being used by similar businesses.
Last month RE/MAX filed suit against Daytona Property Management, a company that rents beachside apartments and homes. Although not exactly in the same business, but very similar nonetheless, the used signs with a color scheme similar to that of RE/MAX. Horizontal stripes: red, white and blue. Daytona Property Management has now changed its signs, so they are not longer confusingly similar.
In Holland, where red, white and blue are the colors of the national flag, this case would have never been successful. Quite interesting that in another country it was.
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