Deutsche Telekom is perhaps best known around the world as the telco behind mobile carrier T-Mobile, but today it’s making an appearance in a lesser-known yet also regular role: trademark troll.
The company’s German lawyers have sent a letter to Lemonade, the AI-based insurance startup headquartered in New York, demanding it cease using magenta — a color that appears across Lemonade’s logo and marketing material — globally. DT also filed for and received an injunction on Lemonade operating in Germany — a block Lemonade has temporarily worked around by dropping magenta for the moment in the country (it’s using red instead).
But that is not the whole story: Lemonade, which said the letter came in the wake of its launch in Germany this summer, said that it will put up a fight. Today, it filed a motion with EUIPO (the European intellectual property office) to invalidate DT’s claim to a trademark on magenta; and it has further petitioned the German trademark office to remove DT’s claim to holding a right on magenta in the insurance sector.
“We thought this seemed like a massive over-reach,” Daniel Schreiber, Lemonade’s CEO and co-founder, said in an interview. “Then when we started digging, we found that they’ve been doing this across a number of countries, covering big companies to the smallest businesses. It’s mind boggling. We are in insurance.”
This fact does not matter to DT, which says the color mark is associated with its brand “beyond the classic industry environment.”
“Deutsche Telekom has asked the insurance company Lemonade to stop using the color magenta,” a spokesperson said in response to our request for comment. “Like the company logo ‘T’ and other brand elements, the color magenta is registered as a Deutsche Telekom brand. Deutsche Telekom’s brands make a significant contribution to the company’s success. Deutsche Telekom is clearly recognized and remembered by the color magenta — beyond the classic industry environment. Deutsche Telekom respects everyone’s trademark rights, but expects others to do the same. In Germany, the competent court issued an injunction against Lemonade because it considered the use of magenta to be a violation of Deutsche Telekom’s color mark. Please understand that Deutsche Telekom will not comment further on this case until a final decision has been made.”
To be sure, this is far from Deutsche Telekom’s first efforts to defend its pink hue. The company has gone after carriers like AT&T and Telia, our sister publication Engadget (before the days when it was owned by another DT competitor, Verizon), Apple device management specialist dataJar, invoice services provider Compello and a now-defunct smartwatch maker.
The track record so far should give Lemonade some hope. In some cases — such as Telia’s and dataJar’s — DT lost and magenta has run free. In others, DT has had the upper hand, and has danced a little in celebration: