08
Feb
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Remember when we reported that T-Mobile was suing AT&T because the marketing for the Aio budget carrier used a shade of purple that was too close to T-Mobile's (literally) trademark magenta? Yes, that is a thing that happened. And apparently at least one Texas judge thought it was a valid complaint, because a federal court has ruled that Aio did, in fact, infringe on T-Mobile's corporate trademark.

aio logos

Here's the PR statement that T-Mobile issued after the ruling:

Federal Court Rules that AT&T was Infringing on T-Mobile's Magenta Trademark Color and Orders an Injunction

A federal court has halted AT&T's transparent effort to infringe on T-Mobile's distinctive magenta trademark. T-Mobile [U.S. Inc.] is very pleased that the federal court in Texas has ordered Aio Wireless, a subsidiary of AT&T, to stop infringing T-Mobile's magenta trademark. The court agreed with us that Aio can't continue infringing T-Mobile's magenta mark by using large blocks of what it has called "plum," and told Aio to stop using magenta or similar colors in all of its marketing and advertising, including stores, web sites and social media.  The Court's ruling, coming after extensive argument and a three-day hearing, validates T-Mobile's position that wireless customers identify T-Mobile with magenta and that T-Mobile's use of magenta is protected by trademark law.

There is no mention of monetary damages or payments, so presumably once AT&T stops promoting Aio with anything that could be called pink or purple, it will be in the clear. Once more, for the record - here are the differences between the hues that Aio was using (left) and T-Mobile's standard magenta (right).

aio2 T-Mo2

Three, two, one aaaaaand queue T-Mobile CEO John Legere's spiteful Twitter response.

Right, John. You sue an AT&T subsidiary over a vaguely similar color because they're the bullies. Keep working that underdog angle, I suppose.

Source: T-Mobile

Michael Crider
Michael is a native Texan and a former graphic designer. He's been covering technology in general and Android in particular since 2011. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

  • nvllsvm

    I love the service I get from T-Mobile, but are you fucking kidding me?

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Most consumers easily associate branding and colors. Magenta is their logo, trademark, and branding, and they have every right to protect it.

      • nvllsvm

        Under US law, they certainly do have every right to protect it. Are those laws just? Fuck no. Magenta is a color.

        • lljktechnogeek

          This was arguably more a matter of trade dress than a trademark specifically, although in US law both are governed by the Lanham Act (The specific statute is 15 USC § 1125.) All T-Mobile would have to show is that the magenta constituted a "word, term, name, symbol, or device, or any combination thereof" such that its use by AT&T would cause people to think Aio was a T-Mobile brand. The court agreed, and judging from the comments on this post, I can't honestly say they were wrong to do so.

          EDIT: Just in case there is any chance of confusion, I do not in any way resemble a bar-certified attorney.

          • Chris

            "Thereof" and "such that" says it all my friend.

  • justafew

    In the future, all logos will become black and white - until someone trademarks that, too.

    • https://twitter.com/#!/doomstang Doomstang

      I'm sure Apple already patented that one

  • Zak Taccardi

    Not going to lie, I thought Aio was a T-Mobile brand when I first started looking into them. The color of their brand marketing made me feel that they would be as customer friendly as T-Mobile. Not until further research did I figure out it was an AT&T subsidiary, which most people won't do.

    I see how it's ridiculous to sue over a color, but I can absolutely see why T-Mobile is upset about this.

    • Martha John

      You go in their office, sign up, thinking it's a Tmo associate. But noo, it's not. It's misleading.

    • shonangreg

      That's the basis of these complaints: consumer confusion. Thanks for mentioning how you confused them, but why? Why did you think aio wireless was linked to T-Mobile? Surely something else was involved other than crimson and pink linking the two in your mind . . .

      • Zak Taccardi

        The color/brand style. I thought this must be T-Mobile's prepaid brand! Imagine if T-Mobile made a prepaid brand in yellow, blue, or red.

        • shonangreg

          Yeah, I do see from a few other posters here that the color had them thinking it was T-Mobile too. That is surprising. I guess the bright red Verizon, sky blue AT&T, yellow Sprint, and dark red T-Mobile does work to funnel people into this mis-perception.

          • http://aikenareaprogressive.blogspot.com/ jovan1984

            Actually, AT&T is more orange than Sky Blue.

  • supremekizzle

    Usually I find it bullshit when companies patent stupid ass shit like names or shapes, I'm looking at you King .com and Apple. But this was a move with pure malicious intent to confuse consumers to think that they were the magenta carrier. Good for T-Mobile. Cue: John Legere's gloat-fest.

    • WSict3614

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      • supremekizzle

        Your neighbor's step aunt is a whore.

        • Who else?

          A damn fine whore

  • Ryuuie

    Fucking really?

    T-Mobile, I know you're reading this just like you read Droid Life's comments. I'd like to say:

    Fuck you, you petty pieces of shit.

    You're officially worse than Apple trying to prove they own a shape and King.com trying to own a word. If you want to be better than your competitors, then get better coverage, better LTE, better coverage, better plans, better coverage, and oh yeah, better coverage.

    John Legere, you clearly don't have any confidence in your company doing well if you have to try and make it relevant by sending your troll squad on to comment forums, try to bash your competition in your commercials, and try to slander in ads online.

    I'd prefer political slander commercials over this petty crap. At least they're amusing. This is just a sad attempt at a company trying to be relevant in a country where they're clearly slipping to #2 and trying their damndest to stay afloat.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Magenta is their branding, and they have a right to protect it. The only BS that I smell here originates from you.

      What a sad, deranged rant. A flaming narcissist who probably guest voted his own comment up twice. Nice.

      • RTWright

        Magenta is NOT something anyone should have a patent on you idiot! That color is a general use color for a lot more stuff out there than just -T- Mobile's stupid ass logo. It's also a registered Pantone color as well in several other color books that Art and Ad Agencies around the world use for a lot of things, maybe Pantone should Sue everyone for using these colors hmmm? Since they have it in so many different books for artist and others to make use of? I think I'd like to see that one, then see how stupid that one goes.

        • Kidney_Thief

          SPOILER ALERT: Trademarks are generally industry-specific. So it's not that nobody else can use magenta, just no other cell provider can. Also, typically companies have a color palette that they use as part of their corporate identity. T-Mobile, for example, uses multiple magenta colors throughout their advertising. Their darker magenta color is awfully close to the one that's used by Aio.

          But let's be serious here, this isn't about a color. I'm sure T-Mobile isn't too bothered by it in the grand scheme of things. This is about damaging a competitor.

        • Gabernasher

          They didn't patent magenta, they have a trademark on it in the wireless industry.

        • KingofPing

          "Magenta is NOT something anyone should have a patent on you idiot!"

          Does not know the difference between trademarks and patents. Calls anyone who disagrees with his cluelessness an idiot.

          Priceless.

        • KlausWillSeeYouNow

          What an asinine remark that was. You're a fool. This is a lawsuit about a competitor using another competitor's color, not about toddlers getting summoned to court because they used a magenta crayon.

          Nobody is preventing YOU from using the color! If you started a wireless company and used the color, however, that is a completely different matter.

          The only reason AT&T wanted the color was to deceive customers, and there's a lot wrong with that. It was clearly intended to dilute T-Mobile's brand image and nothing else, and I'm glad the court was a lot smarter than you are and saw it as that.

    • Cory_S

      You do know the John Legere commenter on DL is a troll, right?

      • Gabernasher

        Trolls can't identify each other, they just get into rage wars online.

        • Guest

          "Rage wars..." LMAO. I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist.

        • KlausWillSeeYouNow

          "Rage wars..." LMAO. I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist.

          EDIT: I forgot something in the image. Tried to delete but Disqus didn't do it. :-(

    • Gabernasher

      " company trying to be relevant in a country where they're clearly slipping to #4"

      They've been #4 for a while, they're actually moving up in customers pretty quickly.

    • Jephri

      Someone needs to hug a puppy.

  • StankyChikin

    They don't look anything alike

  • Johnathan Rodriguez

    I can agree with this. I've passed many aio billboards with that color, and I can see how a typical consumer would confuse T-Mobile's ads which feature heavy use of a pretty similar color, to those of aio.

    Yeah, it's silly to think about two big companies fighting about a color, but when you're talking about phone carriers, image does matter a lot. AT&T Blue, Verizon Red, Sprint Yellow, and T-Mo Magenta. There are plenty of other colors out there.

    • Jim Nosrati

      Oh yeah? NAME ONE MORE.

      • Johnathan Rodriguez

        Shoot. I didn't think someone would call my bluff.

        Boost took orange....clear took green....I guess aio will have to settle for brown.

        • Guest

          Or perhaps Blue considering they are owned by ATT!

      • Chris

        Uh...how about they just use blue because they're an AT&T sub?

        • KlausWillSeeYouNow

          No, it's not deceptive enough for AT&T's taste.

      • http://volumeboy-man.bandcamp.com/ VBM

        Rainbow.

      • http://planetmew.com/blog/ Christopher Glass

        Taupe!

    • Mystery Man

      AIO uses an awesome teal color on their site. They should stick with that.

  • David Margolin

    I don't understand why everyone is so pissed at tmo... They have the trademark... They used it to their advantage. Many people mistook aio for a tmo brand and now it's fixed. And tmo is the official #holoyolo carrier. By badmouthing tmo, android police is badmouthing holo. And we don't want that happening.

    • RTWright

      To be perfectly honest, this is a stupid lawsuit that should have been laughed right out of the courtroom. The logo by Aio looks NOTHING like -T- Mobile at all. Colors, Shapes, General use anything should never become a way for patent trolls to sue people over. If people are that blind, stupid, dumb as can be that they can't tell the difference from that Logo vs -T- Mobile's? Then you need your eyes checked, your flat stupid. No way I'd ever thought of them being part of -T- Mobile just because of a stupid ass color. This is how pathetic our patent system is and should be abolished and or at least totally reworked from the ground up. Too much stupidity in this stuff. If anything I should sue all of them for using the colors of the rainbow in their logos, oh wait, I can't, I'm not mother nature so that wouldn't work!

      • fonix232

        The problem here is not just simply a trademark, and no, it would never be laughed out of the courtroom, for a reason. If it wasn't ATT, or any other mobile carrier, Tmo wouldn't give a fuck, you can use magenta or any of its shades. But here, ATT, a competitor, used a waaay to similar color, associated with a brand, to promote their own product. Please tell me, that if you went down the street and saw the aio logo in big, without any context, you would not associate it with Tmo instantly (for the sake of the argument, let's assume that you're a not-so-well-versed in the topic). You go in their office, sign up, thinking it's a Tmo associate. But noo, it's not. It's misleading. It *might* show the brand off in a bad manner, or bring customers because of the brand knowledge. And THAT is Tmo's problem.

      • KlausWillSeeYouNow

        That's nuts. I'm colorblind, and I can tell the difference.

        I think you ought to check out your downvotes... just so you know, the "/" usually indicates disagreement. You're not winning here.

      • Michael Navarro

        But aio did try to confuse I even would think they were a tmobile company but I'd do research and find out more about aio. It really sad that there fighting over color but tmobile has the right when your talking wireless and your talk colors you picture that company example yellow you think sprint, orange you think boost. Aio could have picked another color but they intended to decive the consumer...

  • KlausWillSeeYouNow

    Anybody else notice @MichaelCrider's condescending tone? News flash: It's okay to gloat if you're right. He won.

    So much for objectivity...

    • Chris

      It's rare when you come by such a one sided, biased post here at AP. He was riding John's back so hard.

  • Mark Washington

    What about Sprint and Virgin Mobile . I seriously thought they were owned by Verizon!

  • TJ Benson

    Umm. Android police, the magenta in question isn't the t's magenta, its the dots and mobile magenta, which is much more similar to the color used by aio.

  • Wesley Modderkolk

    Thankfully! I always got those two confused!

    • sguyx

      lol good one!

  • Rohan Dhruva

    You want "cue", not "queue".

    • Patrick

      Na, he was referring to how many people were left reading this article

  • PerishableNews

    John Legere talks a good game. But in reality, he can't wait to sell T-Mobile off to Sprint/Softbank and walk away with a huge payday.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Pretty sure that's in his résumé.

  • Aki I.

    I don't know if it's because I'm looking through an amoled screen but those colors don't look alike to me at all

    • Jephri

      I'm looking by through a triliminous display on a Sony Z1s with a 50% wider color spectrum, and they look nearly identical in the two colored squares.

      • dude

        Get your display calibrated. Or your eyes checked. So much for triluminous.

    • Joshua

      I'm using a shittily-calibrated screen on a shitty HP laptop and they don't look very similar when placed next to each other. I suppose when you're just out driving and you pass a billboard where there's no immediate comparison to the side, they might look a lot closer. I just don't see it on my computer screen, though.

  • ScottColbert

    Guess we know who Crider's carrier is, and it's not magenta colored. This should have been labeled as an opinion piece. I don't need anyone to tell me how they feel, I can decide for myself. Back to journalism 101.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Amen. Crider clearly is a Deathstar activist.

  • sguyx

    LOL, seriously? Dont they have anything to do? I would understnd it if it was a copy, but those nothing same, nothing! Next they will sue redlights?

  • Fatal1ty_93_RUS

    Stupidest lawsuit ever. AIO and TMO colors are totally different

  • dontsh00tmesanta

    Tmobile is the best right now but the colors weren't even close to me but this is America I can see how many thought it was tmobile

  • Gator352

    So. Stupid.

  • a

    How is this fucking android?

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      T-Mobile was the first U.S. carrier to offer an Android device, and T-Mobile was the most supportive of Android in its infancy.

      The HTC-built T-Mobile G1 really got the ball rolling in the U.S.

  • Alonso Tucati

    patents, trademarks, lawsuits i get tired of these reports

  • spunker88

    Its not even the same color. Tmobile likes to act like they are big and tough but their coverage sucks. As soon as you get a few miles outside of a major city all you'll get is EDGE if your lucky. Maybe instead of buying out people's contracts you put up a few towers and then people would actually switch to you.

    Based on this, I guess At&t should sue Boost Mobile, and Verizon should sue Virgin Mobile.

    • Gabernasher

      I'm a solid hour away from Philly and I was pulling down 66Mbps on LTE...

      • KingofPing

        The one thing true of nearly every over generalized statement is that it is almost always completely false.

        I live in a farm town and get LTE on T-Mo. He's over generalizing to the point of absurdity. Their coverage may not be as good in many places as it is here, but it is far from the picture he is trying to paint for sure.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      Jealous, are we? You must have AT&T.

      Oh boy - now that they lost this lawsuit, expect your monthly bill to go up even more!

    • Matthew Fry

      You've got a point on the colors being similar in those cases but give me examples where people have confused them as being associated with each other.

  • [A]dri[A]n

    T-Mobile's desperation at it's best.

    • KlausWillSeeYouNow

      If you consider "desperation" winning...

  • Patruns

    A bit over the top, but since some may have been confused and there are no monetary damages I guess it is ok.

  • Glich

    So TMO gets anouther bucket of money from ATT and ATT has to make some printer very happy reprinting all there stuff in a new color.

  • Gator352

    That's it. I'm trademarking grey hair and that "grey" will be my branding that I use to advertise myself. Now any of you mutha fukas wanna take that shit on....BRING IT...especially you Gretian!!
    Now. Doesn't that sound stupid?? Yup. Sure does. This "branding", color, crap is so stupid that I feel I need to go take a shit now.

  • Fifth313ment

    This is crazy but don't you remember T-Mobile also going after Engadget Mobile website logo a few years back (link below)?! I love T-Mobile but this crap is crazy. They are doing the things which the larger companies and carriers are known for and they are supposed to be "Uncarrier"! In other news I'm scared to think about what I'm going to have to do if Sprint buys them. I just left Sprint and they suck beyond any other carrier by far! I HATE SPRINT! LOL! http://www.engadget.com/2008/03/31/deutsche-telekom-t-mobile-demands-engadget-mobile-discontinue/

    5th

  • Matthew Fry

    This is an interesting community response considering that AP obviously doesn't agree with T-Mobile's argument and the previous article was very against it as well. I agreed with T-Mobile initially and I agree with the judge and others here now. While it's easy to look at the colors side by side and see they are different shades, it's more difficult when the Aio logo is seen in isolation. You have to consider the intent here. If AT&T wanted Aio Wireless to be seen as an AT&T subsidiary they would use their customary color scheme and they did not, so they didn't want people to think its AT&T. If they've already decided to actively avoid AT&T color schemes, the logical thing is to choose a color that could eventually be immediately recognizable as Aio Wireless. Yet, they chose a color similar enough to T-Mobile but different enough to cause doubt. There was an intent to deceive and confuse in choosing a color that is so similar. That's the only thing that makes sense.

  • Name

    initially I agree that the lawsuit seems ridiculous. It obviiously is not the same color. But some further investigation and it wasn't that it was 'the same' but that it was created customer confusion and infringed. I think if you look at photos of their launch events you'll see why. I tried to find them but here is a link to a decent look. http://www.ellamedia.com/blog/orlando-blogger-event-aio-wireless/

  • http://aikenareaprogressive.blogspot.com/ jovan1984

    I know why T-Mob sued: a shade of plum similar to what aio was accused of copyrighting is used to highlight T-Mobile's 2G coverage areas. Look at the maps on T-Mobile's site.

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