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Medical Device Branding Strategy Influenced by Home Insulation & Designer Shoes

Jeff Nordquist , MS, MBA
11 Jan, 2023
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Challenge: Protecting your brand and deterring customer confusion with lower quality copies of your product in the market.

Strategic Overview

What is the strategic branding link between home insulation, designer shoes and medical devices? If you have strongly established brand identification with customers, the answer is COLOR as an intellectual property opportunity. From an intellectual property perspective, the 3 most common applications are the trademark, the copyright, and the patent. A trademark can be especially powerful, given it has an indefinite life span as compared to patents and copyrights.


Color Trademark Background

Owens Corning originally utilized color as a differentiator starting back in the 1950s. Most insulation at the time as an undifferentiated tannish color, and Owens Corning decided to add pink dye to their products. For more than 30 years Owens Corning strongly marketed the pink color, adopted a “Think Pink” slogan, and utilized the Pink Panther character as a mascot. In 1985, Owens Corning became the first company in the U.S. to trademark a color. In 1995, a company named Qualitex took a color case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (514 U.S. 159 , Qualitex v. Jacobson Products). In that landmark case over Qualitex’ green-gold color for dry cleaning press pads, the Supreme Court established that the Lanham Act permits the registration of a trademark that consists, purely and simply, of a color.


The Color of Money

The value of color as a trademark was visibly established in the famous case of Christian Louboutin which has utilized red color soles on its designer shoes since 1992. In 2011, Christian Louboutin filed a lawsuit against Yves Saint Laurent against its red shoe which also contained a red sole. The case established that the color red, when used on the bottom of a shoe with a contrasting upper shoe color, had acquired “secondary meaning” based on customer perception. That perception and trademark ownership continues to enjoy tremendous value in the fashion industry today.


Established Brands Capitalize

Many companies since the 1995 Owens Corning ruling have established color as a trademark for their company. Some of the more recognizable brands are:

1.   Owens Corning Pink

2.   Christian Louboutin Red Soles

3.   Tiffany 1837 Blue

4.   John Deere Green & Yellow

5.   UPS Pullman Brown

6.   Home Depot Orange

7.   Cadbury Purple

8.   Target Red

9.   Barbie Pink

10. T-Mobile Magenta

11. Coca-Cola Red

12. 3M Post-It Canary Yellow

13. Fiskars Orange

14. University of North Carolina – Carolina Blue

15. University of Texas – Burnt Orange


Medical Device Opportunity

Founded in 1979, Corpak Medsystems had been at the forefront of developing enteral feeding tube devices. As part of the leadership team at Corpak, under the private equity ownership of Linden Partners, we faced potential challenges from customer confusion over lower quality competition. Around 1982, Corpak had selected the color yellow for their feeding tubes to be aesthetically pleasing. Based on Corpak’s unique use of this color for enteral feeding tubes over 30 years and customers’ strong association of the yellow color with the Corpak brand, we worked to trademark the color for our medical device line of products.

We did have to meet 4 critical criteria in order to establish the color trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO):

  1. The color needed to be a source of brand identification.
  2. The color needed to show proof of “secondary meaning”, distinguishing the feeding tubes from competitors and identifying Corpak as the definitive source of the product.
  3. The color doesn’t put competitors at a disadvantage by affecting cost or quality.
  4. The color must not have a functional purpose.


Gathering market and customer data as well as specimen evidence of our brand promotions over time for the USPTO submission was a process taking over a year. The efforts paid off however, as we were successful in our prosecution of the trademark for the color yellow for enteral feeding tubes (U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 4,839,588).


Corpak Medsystems was successfully sold to Halyard Health, now rebranded as Avanos Medical. The color branding strategy established for the enteral feeding tube line originally innovated by Corpak endures. Avanos still owns the customer loyalty and value of that yellow color. The important trademark attribution statement still accompanies marketing collateral, advertisements, product packaging, and web pages for the product line:

“The COLOR YELLOW is a Registered Trademark or Trademark of Avanos Medical, Inc. or its affiliates.”



Don’t underestimate the power of color and holistic trademark protections for your brand. Color is a powerful marketing tool that encourages customer choice, influencing customers’ emotions and perceptions, and thus a valuable business asset.



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