9 Trademarked Colors

Getty Images
Getty Images

Roy G. Biv better watch himself. From red to violet, it's completely legal for companies to stake a claim on any shade they want (provided they meet certain conditions), including the nine colors below. But don't throw out your adult coloring books just yet—trademarks are typically confined to certain industries or areas of expertise. For example, while you would certainly get a cease-and-desist letter for marketing your jewelry store with Tiffany Blue, you'd be perfectly within your rights to theme your bagel shop in the distinctive tone. (Just don't call it Breakfast at Tiffany's.)

1. QUALITEX GREEN-GOLD

QUALITEX green-gold color

Qualitex v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc., is what really put colormarking on the map. Qualitex had used a unique shade of green-gold for their dry cleaning presses since the 1950s, and in 1989 their competitor Jacobson Products began using a very similar shade. Qualitex sued, arguing trademark infringment and unfair competition. The fight went all the way to the Supreme Court, but in 1995 Qualitex won after the court ruled that color could serve as a trademark [PDF].

2. TIFFANY BLUE

Tiffany Blue

Tiffany Blue was first associated with the upscale jeweler in 1845, when Charles Lewis Tiffany chose the robin's egg shade for the cover of the company's first catalog, or "Blue Book." According to the company, he may have selected the color because turquoise was a popular gemstone at the time. Today the color is not only trademarked (it has been since 1998), it also has its own custom Pantone number: 1837, the year the company was founded.

3. OWENS-CORNING PINK

OWENS-CORNING PINK

Owens-Corning, which manufactures roofing materials and insulation, was the first company to trademark a color—pink—in the 1980s. The shade is so entwined with the Owens-Corning product that the company officially licenses the Pink Panther for use on packaging. They defended their colormark in 2011, when a U.K.-based insulation company came out with their own blush-colored insulation materials.

4. T-MOBILE MAGENTA

T-MOBILE MAGENTA

T-Mobile is an enthusiastic defender of their colormark—they have sued or threatened to sue over the bright shade on at least three occasions. In 2008, they threatened litigation against Engadget Mobile for using magenta, even though there’s probably little danger of anyone confusing a website and a cell phone company. Then they sued Telia, a Swedish cell phone company, for using a pretty similar shade in Denmark. Not only did T-Mobile lose because the two companies don't compete in the same market, it also had to pay all of Telia’s court costs. AT&T, however, does compete in the same market as T-Mobile, so when they used a familiar shade of magenta for one of their brands in 2014, T-Mobile was able to put the kibosh on it. Though AT&T referred to the color as “plum,” a judge ruled against them.

5. BARBIE PINK

BARBIE PINK

Another protected shade of pink: Barbie Pink. It’s trademarked for use in more than 100 categories, from bubble bath to cereal. Mattel, Barbie's parent company, sued MCA Records in 1997 when the song "Barbie Girl" by Aqua came out. Mattel wasn't pleased about the use of their product in the song, of course, but they also alleged that the song's album cover resembled Barbie packaging too closely, including the use of Barbie Pink. The judge threw the case out of court with the memorable ruling, "The parties are advised to chill."

6. CADBURY PURPLE

Cadbury Purple

Though royal purple has been associated with Cadbury since they wrapped their confections in the shade to honor Queen Victoria in the 1800s, the company is losing ground in the battle to use Pantone 2685C exclusively. For over a decade, the company has been embroiled in a legal skirmish with Nestle U.K., which seeks to use a similar color. Though Cadbury won the original case in High Court, the ruling was later overturned—and the war rages on.

7. WIFFLE BALL BAT YELLOW

WIFFLE BALL BAT YELLOW

Wiffle Ball bats were originally wooden. However, the yellow plastic incarnation that came along seven years later became so big that “Wiffle Ball Bat Yellow” was colormarked in 2008.

8. UPS BROWN

UPS BROWN

UPS’s signature color was originally called “Pullman Brown," and was reportedly picked because the rich tone was considered “the epitome of luxury” back when the UPS trucks were first painted with it in 1916. The color was trademarked in 1998.

9. 3M CANARY YELLOW

3M CANARY YELLOW

3M colormarked the original Post-It color, Canary Yellow, for use in office and stationery products. The sunny hue was chosen because it was the only color of scrap paper on hand when the company started experimenting with the sticky notes.

A version of this story originally ran in 2011.

15 Jokes From the World's Oldest Jokebook

Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.
Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.

The oldest recorded joke—a lowbrow Sumerian quip stating "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap"—dates back to 1900 BCE, eking out a pharaoh wisecrack from Ancient Egypt by a solid three centuries.

But to pilfer one of the oldest jokes in the book means dusting off the Philogelos (meaning "Laughter Lover"), a Greek anthology of more than 200 jokes from the 4th or 5th century. From gags about dunces to jests at the expense of great thinkers, here are 15 jokes from the oldest existing collection of jokes, as translated by now-retired classical languages professor William Berg.

1. A student dunce goes swimming

comedians
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he'll never get into water until he's really learned to swim."

2. An intellectual visits a friend

ancient dancers
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had 'departed,' the intellectual replied: 'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?'"

3. The miser's will

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A miser writes his will and names himself as the heir."

4. The sharp-witted spectator

ancient theater
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A sharp wit observes a slow runner: 'I know just what that gentleman needs.' 'What's that?' demands the sponsor of the race. 'He needs a horse, otherwise, he can't outrun the competition!'"

5. The hot-headed doctor

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Consulting a hotheaded doctor, a fellow says, 'Professor, I'm unable to lie down or stand up; I can't even sit down.' The doctor responds: 'I guess the only thing left is to hang yourself.'"

6. The cowardly sailor

treater rehearsal
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A coward is asked which are safer, warships or merchant-ships. 'Dry-docked ships,' he answers."

7. The jealous landlord

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An envious landlord sees how happy his tenants are. So he evicts them all."

8. The drunk barkeeper

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A drunk opens a bar, and stations a chained bear outside."

9. The guy with bad breath

ancient comedian
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A guy with bad breath decides to take his own life. So he wraps his head and asphyxiates himself."

10. The wife-hater

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A wife-hater is attending the burial of his wife, who has just died. When someone asks, 'Who is it who rests in peace here?', he answers, 'Me, now that I'm rid of her!'"

11. The luckless eunuch

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A luckless eunuch got himself a hernia."

12. The husband with halitosis

Roman woman holding a mask
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A husband with bad breath asks his wife, 'My dear, why do you hate me?' She give him an answer: 'Because you kiss me.'"

13. The gluttonous gifter

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A glutton is marrying his daughter off to another glutton. Asked what he's giving her as a dowry, he responds, 'She's getting a house with windows that look out onto the bakery.'"

14. Too tired to care

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Two lazy-bones are fast asleep. A thief comes in, pulls the blanket from the bed, and makes off with it. One of them is aware of what happened and says to the other, 'Get up! Go after the guy who stole our blanket!' The other responds, 'Forget it. When he comes back to take the mattress, let's grab him then.'"

15. The forgetful teacher

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An incompetent teacher is asked the name of Priam's mother. At a loss, he says, 'Well, we call her Ma'am out of politeness.'"

An earlier version of this story ran in 2014.

7 Fun Facts About Cards Against Humanity

Pabo Punk, Flickr // Public Domain
Pabo Punk, Flickr // Public Domain

Since 2011, the popular party game Cards Against Humanity has managed to make being offensive a cottage industry. Using a deck of cards filled with off-color commentary, players are tasked with filling in phrases using answer cards that create scenarios ranging from the merely obscene to the downright scandalous. The rules are loose—players can keep going until they decide they want to stop—but the game has proven to be a hit. Check out some facts about Cards Against Humanity's origins, its Black Friday specials involving poop, and the time the creators pondered whether to cut up a Picasso.

1. Cards Against Humanity started as a game made of construction paper.

In 2009, Max Temkin, Josh Dillon, Daniel Dranove, Eli Halpern, Ben Hantoot, David Munk, David Pinsof, and Eliot Weinstein—a group of friends, most of whom had attended high school together—got together over their winter break and decided to design a game that could entertain guests during their annual New Year’s Eve parties. While they thought of a variety of games, only one of them—which they called Cardenfreude, after schadenfreude, the German word for delighting in another’s misfortune—stuck.

They continued working on the game after they all headed back to their respective colleges, using pieces of construction paper to print out questions and answers. Later, Temkin and his friends released the game for free under a Creative Commons license. Thanks to early word of mouth, a 2011 Kickstarter campaign was successful and allowed them to produce a commercial edition of the game—which, despite being free to download and print, became an immediate hit. Cards Against Humanity sold nearly 500,000 copies in its first two years and became Amazon’s bestselling game during that period of time.

2. Cards Against Humanity was so popular, people didn’t mind paying triple the price.

From the beginning, Temkin and his friends knew that they wanted their venture to be an independent one, not an investor-financed endeavor, so they secured their own manufacturer for the game: Ad Magic, a New Jersey firm specializing in playing cards. They outsourced the work to a factory in China, but as the game racked up sales online, production couldn’t keep up. As a result, copies of Cards Against Humanity sold for up to three times its $25 retail price on the secondary market until production increased.

3. The team successfully sold bull dung to consumers.

For a 2014 Black Friday promotional stunt, the Cards Against Humanity company promised to send consumers a box of “bullsh*t.” The company sold and shipped boxes containing a solid piece of real bull dung that was procured from a cattle ranch in Texas. All 30,000 pieces, which were priced at $6 each, sold out within a half-hour the day they went on sale.

According to Temkin, the fecal matter was intended to be a commentary on the sensationalist nature of the hype surrounding Black Friday sales. They’ve made a tradition of attention-grabbing projects each holiday season. In 2015, they held a “promotion” in which people could send them $5 and get nothing in return. (They collected $71,145 and split it among their employees.) In 2016, the company dug a purposely pointless “holiday hole” in an undisclosed area using funds donated by customers. In 2018, the company held a 99-percent-off sale which featured bizarre items at a steep discount like a cheese wheel and an actual car for $97.50. The items were purportedly all real and delivered to purchasers.

4. The company doesn’t have much of a sense of humor about copycats.

Though Cards Against Humanity has drawn comparisons to Apples to Apples, a wordplay game that was released in 1999, the company is not prone to tolerating lookalike products. While people are free to make expansion packs that build on the game’s premise, the company frowns upon them monetizing their creations and will often enlist their lawyers to discourage unauthorized games. Decks like Cards Against Originality and Cards and Punishment, which resemble the now-familiar black and white color scheme and Helvetica font of the original Cards Against Humanity, can invite problems. The company says it has concerns because fans often confuse the third-party projects with official expansion packs.

5. Cards Against Humanity might be the only game with a writer’s room.

To keep the material of the expansion packs fresh, Temkin and his partners enlisted Chicago-area comedians to convene for a writer’s room at the company’s offices beginning in 2016. As a result, the game reportedly became raunchier and weirder. The writers also act as a focus group of sorts, making sure the cards are offensive but not excessively so. That system doesn't always work, however. In 2017, Target removed an expansion pack from stores after it was criticized for being antisemitic.

6. The staff contemplated destroying an original Picasso.

In December 2015, the staff of Cards Against Humanity acquired Tête de Faune, an original work by Pablo Picasso. Though it was never conclusively determined how they had come to acquire it, it was likely from a Chicago-area art dealer. The team ran an online poll to decide whether it should be donated to the Art Institute of Chicago or sliced into 150,000 pieces and distributed to consumers. Of the 50,000 people who voted, 71.3 percent opted to keep it intact.

7. The company opened a pop-up store.

In 2017, the team behind Cards Against Humanity opened a pop-up store in Chicago in collaboration with the Chicago Design Museum. Located in Block 37’s Chicago Design Market, the storefront sold a variety of games and other Cards Against Humanity-related merchandise, as well as work from local artists. The store was temporary, but the company still sells products via retail outlets like Target and Walmart.

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