Learning from T-Mobile: don’t let your insecurities run the show

In summary Before you sue someone, at the very least, make sure they've actually stolen something from you.

Loyalty is color blind. That simply means a customer’s allegiance to a brand is independent of its style guide. Bad products can’t save themselves with distinctive graphics.

This morning I read a fascinating article on the shrinking color palette available to us designers. TL;DR: it is virtually impossible to separate a brand from its color. This means designers must be mindful of color choices not only in terms of what works best for a brand’s message and industry, but what hasn’t already been “claimed” by a competitor to best avoid confusion.

Or, in the case of the color magenta, so T-Mobile doesn’t sue you.

Yes, T-Mobile has gone so far as to copyright the use of the color magenta—something they have previously enforced with one lawsuit in 2001 and a second just last year.

In actuality what T-Mobile “owns” is the right to a specific shade of magenta used in specific circumstances for a specific market. Their actions on the other hand, certainly speak more to their apparent insecurity over whether or not magenta is truly as integral a part of the T-Mobile brand as they hope it is.

While other companies suffice to trademark and copyright their tagline, logo, or even a color to protect their own brand’s integrity from identity thieves, T-Mobile seems to have gone on the offensive side. Marking their territory around the color magenta, T-Mobile clearly feels their brand doesn’t speak strongly enough for itself to just be quietly protected by the copyright. They need to seek out and destroy anyone who comes close to them—even if the copyright “infringement” is more of a stretch than an actuality.

While, yes, there are other trademarks and copyrights concerning brands—it’s a part of responsibly protecting your identity—T-Mobile seems to be more or less waving around their “ownership” over the color magenta at anyone who dares cross them. Neither lawsuit was against a defendant who actually violated the copyright, a fact which is painfully obvious to everyone. Everyone, it seems, but T-Mobile.

Copyright infringement is a serious issue for companies, and one that should definitely be enforced when it comes to preserving the value of your brand. Just make sure that the person you are about to sue has, at the very least, actually stolen something from you.