August '22

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G R A P H I C S - P R O. C O M 2 0 2 2 A U G U S T G R A P H I C S P R O 3 3 the association with pink insulation and their company in the mind of consumers, it was worth it to them. Don't underesti- mate the value companies place on their image, and how integral colors can be to that image. e best rule to follow is this: if you don't have the rights to use specific colors that you know are identified with a specific company, organization, school, or team, don't use them. e second thing you should take away from this discussion is that there is no changing something just enough to avoid infringement. at's the argument that is often made, although it's probably cited more in copyright discussions than color mark or trade dress discussions. Whatever sort of protection is being discussed, the theory goes that there is a mythical per- centage, 20% or 35% or whatever it is, by which you can change a design or color combo so you're not infringing on a com- pany or organization's trade dress or color mark. ere's no line you can walk where you trade just enough on a team's trade dress to get team fans to buy your prod- ucts but are different enough to avoid the team suing your shop for infringement. e problem is that team colors have acquired "secondary meaning" in the minds of consumers. When we see red and gold, we think Kansas City Chiefs. Speed blue and gray brings the Indianapolis Colts to mind. e colors are so closely connected to the teams that we may think products are associated with them sim- ply because they use the same or simi- lar colors. So, unless you are licensed to use the team colors and logos, stay away from doing so. ere is no percentage by which you can change things to make such usage safe. e third thing that can be learned from this study of color marks and trade dress is that it's wise to do your research before you venture into anything related to team colors. e first thing to have on hand is information about what colors sports teams use. Keep in mind that it's not only professional teams you need to study. Colleges and universities protect their colors quite stringently as well. ere are sites you can visit to find out what colors professional and college teams use. Finally, the easiest way to avoid any possibility of being sued or infringing on anyone's trademark is either to become licensed or to use transfers or sell products obtained from licensed vendors. Pretty much every team has licensees who are allowed to use their colors and logos to create products. e licensees may sell the products they make to other vendors who will in turn sell those products to consum- ers. Going this route is the easiest and saf- est way to sell or create team apparel and is the method that will allow you to do so without risk of being sued and poten- tially losing all your stock and possibly your money or your business. GP Kristine Shreve is the founder and CEO of Kristine Shreve Consulting, which offers writing, marketing, and busi- ness development services. The company can be found at Kristine is also the creator and host of the Business + Women podcast and is the director of marketing and outreach for Applique Getaway. Kristine was the director of marketing for Ensign Emblem and EnMart from 2006 to April 2020. Resources for Team Colors and Licensing MLB Licensing NHL Player Licensing NFL Licensing NFL Player Licensing NBA Licensing Team Color Codes (College and Professional) Coalition to Advance the Protection of Sports Logos

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