[Guest post] Burberry ‘Knight Blue’ and Gucci ‘Rosso Ancora’: New signature colours and also trade marks in the making?

The IPKat has received and is pleased to host the following guest post authored by Katfriends Antonios Baris and Spyridon Sipetas (both Stockholm University), reflecting on the IP implications of the recent unveiling, by Burberry and Gucci, of two new signature colours: Knight Blue and Rosso Ancora, respectively. Here's what Antonios and Spyridon write:

Burberry ‘Knight Blue’ and Gucci ‘Rosso Ancora’: New signature colours and also trade marks in the making?

by Antonios Baris and Spyridon Sipetas

This September’s Fashion Week introduced us to the Spring/Summer 2024 collections of all major fashion houses and brought along with it the emergence of their new signature colours.

Gucci Ancora's Roblox event

Colour is known to be one of the most predominant visual elements in products and consequently in their
brand identity. Its role is substantial not only in distinguishing the products of a company from those of its competitors, but also in influencing moods, feelings and attitudes. Hence, it is apparent that colours play an essential role in building the brand image of a company, due to the association between a brand and its signature colour in the target consumers’ perception.

It is common knowledge that - especially in the luxury sector - the brand can be one of the most valuable assets of the company. “People buy things not for what they can do, but also for what they mean” (Levy, 1959). Many fashion houses seem to have taken that into account, by making - not always successful - attempts to establish certain colours as their distinctive signs.

Honourable mentions of such efforts include the OG of brand It colours, i.e., Hermès’s unflinching orange, Tiffany & Co.’s Tiffany Blue, Valentino’s PP Pink, Bottega Veneta’s Parakeet Green and the two latest entries: Burberry’s Knight Blue and Gucci’s Rosso Ancora.

The Spring/Summer 2024 Fashion Week has made it clear that newly appointed creative directors at prestigious fashion houses are determined to leave their own mark in the history of their brand.

Burberry’s Knight Blue

Following Riccardo Tisci’s succession by Daniel Lee, British fashion house Burberry, in its latest collection, has introduced us to a signature motif as well as a new signature colour of the brand: Knight Blue.

Burberry's new Knight Blue windows next
to well-established
Tiffany blue ones in Florence

The colour seems to echo an Yves Klein-esque shade of blue. It was not only portrayed in several new designs and in window displays of the brand, but it was also a crucial part of the promotional campaign of the collection, which included featuring the colour at the Bond Street Tube station in London, renamed ‘Burberry Street’ for the duration of the London Fashion Week.

And while the effort of the brand to establish this shade as a new symbol of the house - at least marketing-wise - seems to be intense, whether it will manage to acquire distinctiveness in order to be granted trade mark protection remains a matter of undefined future.

Needless to say, Burberry is a brand with a valuable IPR portfolio, currently consisting of 27 trade marks registered at the EUIPO level and more than 300 across the EU territory. The tartan trade mark’s reputation, in specific, has secured protection for 4 different variations of it (registrations Nos. 017215237, 017215245, 017535832, 017535816). However, interestingly enough, the EUIPO recently denied trade mark protection of the tartan pattern for virtual goods- that Burberry applied for so as to cover digital collectibles and NFT’s.

Gucci’s Rosso Ancora

Shortly afterwards, in Milan, Sabato De Sarno’s debut show ‘Gucci Ancora’ also introduced us to a new aspiring It colour: Rosso Ancora. The colour could be described as “a deep and rich shade of oxblood, just a few shades darker than the middle stripe in Gucci’s signature tri-stripe motif”. It was inspired by the interiors of London’s Savoy Hotel, where Guccio Gucci, founder of the house, used to work. Gucci also has a remarkable collection which currently counts 29 registered trade marks at the EUIPO alone.

Eagerly waiting to shop
Gucci ss 2024 collection...

The launch of the new signature colour can be experienced in the digital world, as well, as Gucci carefully designed events across three metaverse platforms: Roblox, Zepeto, and QQ. This, nevertheless, should not come as a surprise. Robert Triefus, former CEO of Gucci Vault and Metaverse Ventures, in an interview with The Business of Fashion explicitly stated that it is of utmost importance for fashion brands like Gucci to carry their legacy and unique history into the Metaverse. Burberry is not an amateur in Web 3.0 either; last year the renowned fashion house managed to win a Fashion Award for Metaverse World and Gaming Experience thanks to the collaboration with Minecraft and Blankos Block Party.

New colour trade marks too?

But how could all these efforts translate in terms of trade mark law?

Both Burberry and Gucci are aware that it takes time and a meticulous strategy to efficiently protect their assets, particularly new signature colours. While it is inarguable that colours per se are eligible for trade mark protection, given that they possess little inherent capacity for communicating information (see still today the landmark Libertel CJEU judgment), the brands would likely have to prove that the colour in question has acquired distinctiveness through use, pursuant to Article 7(3) of the Trade Mark Regulation (2017/1001).

This may sound as an easy task for a luxury fashion house. Nonetheless, many major brands, such as Louis Vuitton, have found the process of providing evidence of acquired distinctiveness challenging, eventually failing to receive trade mark protection (Louis Vuitton – Damier Azur, T-275/21, commented on The IPKat here). Yet, some success stories of colour trade marks in the fashion sector are those of Hermès, which has managed to secure protection for its signature colour ‘Orange H’ (Filing No. 002965549) and Tiffany & Co. that has registered the colour ‘Tiffany Blue’ as a trade mark in several jurisdictions.

In a nutshell, in order for Burberry and Gucci to be granted trade mark protection for ‘Knight Blue’ and ‘Rosso Ancora’ respectively, their acquired distinctiveness needs to be proven. Only time will tell whether their promising start - in terms of promotion - will be followed by the necessary acts to accomplish such a challenging mission. Will these new signature colours live up to the reputation of the brands’ previous distinctive signs, moving their empires even forward?
[Guest post] Burberry ‘Knight Blue’ and Gucci ‘Rosso Ancora’: New signature colours and also trade marks in the making? [Guest post] Burberry ‘Knight Blue’ and Gucci ‘Rosso Ancora’: New signature colours and also trade marks in the making? Reviewed by Eleonora Rosati on Monday, September 25, 2023 Rating: 5

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