Farm equipment and the John Deere Trademark go hand-in-hand. Even among the general, non-farming public, Deere is one of the most recognizable brand names. Not only is the name top of mind for most people, but so is the brand’s color scheme – green and yellow. According to its trademark registrations, this familiar look has been used by Deere as early as 1918. With nearly a century of built up brand equity, Deere is actively enforcing its trademark rights against would-be imitators and recently won a permanent injunction against a South Dakota based agricultural sprayer equipment company.
Deere & Co. filed a trademark infringement and dilution lawsuit against FIMCO, Inc. claiming that the company’s use of the green and yellow color scheme infringed on Deere’s trademark registrations and confused customers as to the source of the goods. Deere claimed that FIMCO intentionally chose the color scheme to lead consumers to believe there was some kind of association between the two companies. FIMCO is the largest manufacturer of lawn and garden sprayers in the United States.
Deere has multiple trademark registrations on green and yellow used to ornament farm equipment, including a registration in the class covering tractors asserting use back to 1918 and a registration covering mowers asserting use back to 1905. Many of the other farm equipment based registrations claim use in commerce back to 1970. At any rate, Deere has been using yellow and green for decades and in fact, the judge in the case ruled that the green and yellow qualified as a “famous” trademark, meaning it is “widely recognized by the general consuming public of the United States as a designation of source of the goods or services of the mark’s owner”.
After analysis of Deere’s trademark rights and FIMCO’s use of green and yellow, the judge sided with Deere, initiating a permanent injunction against FIMCO from using the combination of green and yellow together “in the manufacture, distribution, marketing, advertising or sale of trailed and wheeled agricultural equipment in any locality within the United States”. FIMCO has 60 days to indicate to the court how it will comply with the injunction. This decision will likely prove costly for FIMCO as it will either need to repaint all its products or if the products are not capable of being repainted, they will be rendered unsaleable in the United States.
Trademark issues like this can be costly and have significant business impacts. If you have questions about the trademark process please contact the trademark attorneys at Trademark Access. Let our experience protect your valuable brand.