John Deere Gets Trademark Win for its Green, Yellow Color Scheme

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By Anandashankar Mazumdar

Tractor-maker Deere & Co. won a ruling Oct. 13 to stop a competitor from using its trademark green-and-yellow color scheme on agricultural equipment throughout the U.S.

The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky found that Fimco Inc., which sells agricultural equipment under the name “Ag Spray Equipment,” intentionally chose green and yellow to create an association with Deere’s brand as the maker of John Deere tractors. The court permanently barred Fimco from using the Deere colors ( Deere & Co. v. Fimco Inc. , W.D. Ky., No. 15-105, 10/13/17 ).

Deere won on its federal claims of trademark infringement, unfair competition, and trademark dilution, as well as its trademark infringement claim under Kentucky state law.

The decision shows a company can assert trademark protection in colors, as well as names and logos, if it can show that consumers have come to recognize the colors as indicating the origin of the goods. Deere has unsuccessfully asserted rights in green by itself in the past, but it now holds several federal trademark registrations for green and yellow together.

Not Color Coordination

The court earlier this year rejected Fimco’s argument that people don’t buy its green-and-yellow equipment because they’re attracted to the John Deere brand, but because customers want their new purchases to match their Deere tractors.

The court Oct. 13 rejected Fimco’s argument that green and yellow were “the color[s] of agriculture,” and it noted that at trial even Fimco’s CEO referred to the combination as “the John Deere colors.”

The court said that Fimco could use green by itself, yellow by itself, or either color combined with other colors, but no combination of yellow and green.

Judge Thomas B. Russell issued the court’s ruling.

Neither Deere nor Fimco immediately responded to Bloomberg Law requests for comment.

Dinsmore & Shohl LLP and Covington & Burling LLP represented Deere. Koley Jessen PC and Whitlow, Roberts, Houston & Straub PLLC represented Fimco.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anandashankar Mazumdar in Washington at AMazumdar@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mike Wilczek at mwilczek@bna.com

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