Two intellectual property firms have fought out a battle in the Federal Court over the colour green, on behalf of clients BP and Woolworths.
Davies Collison Cave, who represented BP, is a firm that specialises in patent trademark and design protection and advice. Sydney-based Spruson & Ferguson acted for Woolworths.
Both companies use the environmentally conscious colour on their branding and signage. BP has sought to make the colour its trademark since 1991. Woolworths, which began using the colour green at its petrol stations in 1996, opposed BP's applications. On 25 October 2004, Justice Finkelstein gave BP the green light to register the colour green in respect of its goods and services.
The Trade Marks Act allows for a colour to be registered as a trademark if it is distinctive and identifies the trademark owner's goods or services. In reaching his decision, Justice Finkelstein took into account a consumer survey that concluded consumers associate BP's service stations with the colour green.
The case marks the first time in Australia that a court has interpreted the law on whether a single colour can be registered as a trademark. In 2002, the Federal Court set practical guidelines on what may be registered as a colour trademark in the case of Philmac Pty Limited v The Registrar of Trade Marks.