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General Mills fails to trademark yellow color of Cheerios box Staff Writer

Friday, August 25, 2017

General Mills fails to trademark yellow color of Cheerios box
Cheerios Cereal

General Mills has lost a two-year bid to trademark "the color yellow appearing as the predominant uniform background color" on boxes of "oat-based breakfast cereal"

In a ruling issued on August 22nd, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ruled said that consumers do not exclusively associate a yellow cereal box with Cheerios, despite General Mills’ attempts to show evidence to the contrary. If the board had made the opposite ruling, then General Mills would have become the only company that was allowed to sell oat-based cereal in a yellow box.

General Mills started using the iconic yellow box in 1945 when they changed the name of their oat cereal from CheeriOats to Cheerios.

In its original request for the trademark, General Mills said that “consumers have come to identify the color yellow, when used in connection with the goods, comes from not only a single source, but specifically the Cheerios brand.”

To support this assertion, they provided the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office with a survey and report on how often consumers associated the yellow cereal box with their brand.

In July a trademark examiner denied the company’s application, which led to the appeal to the board this week. Ultimately, the board decided to dismiss General Mills’ request.

“Applicant has proven that relevant customers are familiar with the yellow color of the Cheerios box; but the record also indicates that the color yellow is only one aspect of a more complex trade dress that includes many other features that perform a distinguishing and source-indicating function,” the board said. “When we consider the industry practice of ornamenting breakfast cereal boxes with bright colors, bold graphic designs, and prominent word marks, and the fact that customers have been exposed to directly competing products (toroidal oat cereals) and closely related products (other forms of breakfast cereal) in packages that are predominantly yellow, we are not persuaded that customers perceive applicant’s proposed mark, the color yellow alone, as indicating the source of applicant’s goods. We find that applicant has not demonstrated that its yellow background has acquired distinctiveness within the meaning of Section 2(f) and, accordingly, that applicant has not shown that this device functions as a trademark.”

Source: Nancy Lawrence - Staff Writer

Note from This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author,, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.

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