Describing Colour

From: Canadian Intellectual Property Office

Publication Date: June 17, 2019

This notice is intended to clarify the practice of the Trademarks Office with respect trademark applications which require colour descriptions or colour claims.

Paragraph 31(f) of the Trademarks Regulations (the "Regulations") requires applications that claim colour as a feature of the trademark to name each colour and indicate the principal parts of the trademark that are in that colour. Similarly, paragraph 31(g) of the Regulations specifies that if a trademark consists exclusively of a single colour or a combination of colours without delineated contours, the application must contain the name of each colour.

Name of the colour

Where an application is required to provide the name of a particular colour, the colour’s generic name should be used. For example, "blue," "red," "magenta," "teal," and "mauve" are acceptable generic colour names. Additionally, colour names which incorporate adjectives to add specificity, such as "greyish-green," "medium orange," or "purplish-blue," are also acceptable.

Examiners will generally not question how the colour is described unless there is a discrepancy between the appearance of the colour shown in the visual representation and the written description.

In order to more accurately describe a colour, an applicant may reference a colour identification system. Should the name of the colour identification system be the subject of a registered trademark, the name of the system must be set out in uppercase letters and the description must include the statement that the name of the system is a registered trademark. The following would be an example of an acceptable colour claim:

Reference to a colour system alone (i.e. PANTONE 32C) is not acceptable; the application must always include the name of the colour(s). While the Office does not endorse or recommend any one colour identification system, any system referenced should be readily accessible by the general public.

Principal parts

Applications which claim colour(s) as a feature of the trademark must provide an indication, by way of written description, of the principal parts of the trademark that are in each colour. What constitutes the "principal parts" of a particular trademark will depend on the complexity of the trademark. However, in general, the application need only describe the readily-identifiable elements of a trademark that appear in each colour. For example, if a trademark contained a forest scene, an acceptable colour claim might be:


If a trademark contains a colour claim and a colour appears in gradations, the application should describe the transition. For example, acceptable colour claims for trademarks that contain a gradation of colour(s) could read:

This practice notice is intended to provide guidance on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office practice and interpretation of relevant legislation. However, in the event of any inconsistency between this notice and the applicable legislation, the legislation must be followed. The provisions of this practice notice are general guidelines only, are not binding in any particular case and are subject to change.

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