Unilever left feeling blue after Beiersdorf court case

Unilever left feeling blue after Beiersdorf court case

Can Unilever use the colour blue for its Dove product range, or can only Nivea do that, like its manufacturer Beiersdorf claims? The German consumer will get to decide, after a ruling of the Federal Court of Justice.

At stake: Pantone 280 C

Ever since 2013, Beiersdorf and Unilever have been bickering over the colour blue, specifically the Pantone 280 C shade. That type of blue has been associated with Nivea since 1925, but Unilever-based competitor Dove also wants to use that particular colour. Beiersdorf says it cannot as the colour is protected by a patent and that is when this colourful case landed in the federal patent court.


At first, this court decided Beiersdorf had to release the colour unless it could prove that at least 75 % of consumers unambiguously link the colour to Nivea. That would be almost impossible, meaning this shade of blue would become available for public use.


Beiersdorf decided to head to the Federal Court of Justice, Germany's highest court, which has now "transformed" the earlier ruling to 50 % of consumers: if half of consumers link this particular shade of blue to Nivea, Unilever can no longer use Pantone 280 C.


Press agency Bloomberg says it is quite obvious why Beiersdorf is so adamant to defend "its" blue: Nivea's turnover last year reached 5.2 billion euro, 83 % of the group's total turnover.