3M Owns the Color Purple (But Not How You Might Think)

And here I was, ready to paint my bedroom purple. But if 3M owns it, I can't, right? Wrong! Although under US law 3M strangely does have a claim to the the color, it's not as bad as it sounds.

Intellectual property law allows for what's called "trade dress"—the visual distinctiveness that, the hope is, allows consumers to differentiate between similar products on the basis of their origin. That means you can give your girlfriend a Tiffany necklace in that distinctive blue box—and know she's not going to open it and have a swarm of killer bees fly into her face. Or, y'know, some find some shoddier brand of jewelry. So a rival jeweler maker can't make boxes of the same hue, hoping to piggyback on Tiffany's visual reputation.

Coke owns, to a certain extent, that color. It's a wacky idea—having even partial ownership over the way light reflects off a surface and hits our eyes—but don't worry, nobody actually owns the color. In the case above, 3M could only stop you from selling a competing product dressed up in the same purple packaging. Other than that, purple is yours to love and own. Go ahead, buy those purple pants—no legal goons will come knocking. [via Boing Boing]