T-Mobile accuses AT&T's Aio of stealing its distinctive magenta color

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T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) filed a lawsuit against AT&T Mobility's (NYSE:T) Aio Wireless prepaid brand, accusing the brand of stealing T-Mobile's magenta color, which it has trademarked, in an effort to confuse and steal away T-Mobile customers.

According to Law360, T-Mobile filed the lawsuit last Friday in U.S. District Court in Texas, T-Mobile alleges that AT&T launched Aio after T-Mobile unveiled its new no-contract "Simple Choice" plans. T-Mobile did announce its new plans in late March, weeks before AT&T unveil Aio in early May, but it is unclear how long Aio was in development. 

"AT&T's subsidiary's use of magenta to attract T-Mobile customers is likely to dilute T-Mobile's famous magenta color trademark, and to create initial interest [and] confusion as to the source or affiliation of AT&T's subsidiary's business," T-Mobile said in its complaint.

Aio offers prepaid plans but has only launched service in a handful of markets. In June AT&T added LTE service to the brand's offerings, which are currently available in Ft. Myers and Naples, Fla. Aio launched in May in Houston, Orlando, Tampa, Jacksonville and Gainesville, Fla., and plans to expand to additional markets across the country over the next year.

"Aio adopted, is using, and intends to continue to use, magenta in connection with its wireless products and services despite knowledge of T-Mobile's substantial use of, and upon information and belief despite knowledge of T-Mobile's exclusive rights in, the magenta mark," the complaint said.

An Aio spokeswoman denied the infringement claims, and said the color it uses in its branding and on its website is not the same as T-Mobile's magenta. "T-Mobile needs an art lesson," the spokeswoman told Law360. "Aio doesn't do magenta." (Aio's color scheme is, indeed, a deeper shade of purple than T-Mobile's magenta).

"Crayola boxes have hundreds of colors guess theirs just had 1," Tweeted T-Mobile CEO John Legere in response to FierceWireless.

T-Mobile parent Deutsche Telekom began using the magenta trademark in the 1990s, and used the trademark for T-Mobile since 2002. T-Mobile claims Aio has used the magenta color scheme across various advertising platforms and social media outlets, as well as on its coverage map (AT&T uses orange on its coverage map).

T-Mobile and AT&T have locked horns over the past several months on multiple fronts, most recently over the two companies' handset upgrade programs. T-Mobile has been aggressive in attacking larger carriers, and AT&T especially, in its recent advertising.

In the wake of AT&T's proposed acquisition of Leap Wireless (NASDAQ:LEAP), the fate of Aio has grown uncertain. AT&T has said it plans to keep Leap's no-contract Cricket brand and offer Cricket customers access to AT&T's network.  AT&T spokesman Brad Burns told FierceWireless in July that AT&T has not yet determined what it will do with the Aio prepaid brand. Burns added that no changes will occur with the Aio brand until the acquisition of Leap is finalized, which is not expected to occur for least another six to nine months.

For more:
- see this Law360 article

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Article updated Aug. 28 to include comment from Legere.