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Photo by Miguel Á. Padriñán 

In light of the recent Barbie movie everyone is getting in the Barbie spirit by introducing pink items into commerce left and right. Yet, beware of which shade of pink you use because Pantone 219 C, also referred to as “Barbie Pink” is exclusively Mattel’s. Since the Barbie doll was first launched by Mattel in 1959, the doll has been associated with the color pink ever since. Particularly the shade Pantone 219 C, a color that combines magenta and pink. While the specific shade is not registered as a trademark it still has gained trademark protection and here is why.

Trademark protection is afforded to ensure consumer protection in making purchases. Thus, to aid in the avoidance of consumer confusion, the Lanham Act provides trademark protection to marks that are used in commerce and distinctive. While originally unprotectable, as not distinctive, in 1995 the Supreme Court decided in Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc., that “color alone, at least sometimes, can meet the basis legal requirements for use as a trademark. It can act as a symbol that distinguishes a firm’s goods and identifies their source, without serving other significant function.” In the courts ruling, color was held as a “descriptive mark”, meaning that it is never inherently capable of indicating a source and must acquire secondary meaning to do so. Secondary meaning is acquired when “in the minds of the public, the primary significance of a product feature… is to identify the source of the product rather than the product itself.” Mattel acquired secondary meaning in the color Pantone 219 C through its long lasting, repeated use of the shade in association with Barbie products. Such introduction of the shade began as early as the introduction of the Barbie logo in the 1970s. The secondary meaning between Pantone 219 C and Barbie has become so strong that in promotion of the Barbie Movie this past year, all pink billboards in the shade Pantone 219 C were placed around town as advertising for the Barbie movie. The only writing on the billboards was “July 21”, the date the movie would be released in theaters. Yet, with nothing more than a date and the infamous shade of pink, consumers still knew the billboards to be referring to the Barbie Movie. Thanks to this diligent use of the color and popularity of the Barbie brand, consumers now associate the specific shade of pink with Barbie, and Mattel has successfully earned trademark protection of the Pantone 219 C shade of pink even without trademark registration.

Given the trademark protection Mattel has in the shade Pantone 219 C, Mattel has the exclusive right to distribute the signature color. In turn, any company wishing to use the color must have permission from Mattel before doing so. If permission is not received the individual/company is sure to face a trademark infringement suit. In fact, Mattel is very active in policing the use of their color. This is due to the fact that if Mattel did not police the unauthorized use of their protected color then they would risk losing their trademark protection altogether. Thus, it is best to avoid all use of Pantone 219 C in any items unless you are specifically authorized to do so by Mattel itself.

About Micah Barrett

Image of Micah Barrett, author of the article

Micah is a former collegiate volleyball player and NIL Fellow at Rockridge®, a Certified B Corp and RealLeaders Top 150 global impact company. She previously worked for the Nashville Predators, and helps athletes, entertainers, and influencers monetize their rights, and helps companies and organizations build brand pipelines.

Practice Areas

Micah’s practice areas include:

  • athlete and entertainer rights;
  • brand law, including copyright and trademark practice;
  • data privacy; and,
  • social enterprise, ESG, and B Corps.

Email Micah Barrett directly at


Micah Gonzalez

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