November 2019. The recent European Court of Justice ruling in a dispute involving Red Bull has made protection of colour combinations in Europe almost impossible, yet German company Stihl has had no trouble getting its own familiar orange and grey colour mark protected in China.

Silver and blue color mark rejected in the EU and orange and grey colour mark protected in China

Insufficiently clear and precise

For many years, energy drink producer Red Bull fought in vain to register its well-known silver and blue colour combination in Europe. But the European Court would have none of it, ruling that a general claim for a colour combination was insufficiently clear and precise. Which is disappointing, since colour combinations, in whatever form they are used, can also fulfil a role as a trademark.

In China they can!

Interestingly, in China things appear to be moving in the opposite – and in our opinion, the correct – direction. Electric garden tool company Stihl, for example, was recently given trademark protection for its orange and grey colour combination. We think that’s as it should be. After all, like Red Bull’s silver and blue, Stihl’s orange and grey serves as a trademark in its own right.


Bas Kist