NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Wash-
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No. 93-1577
on writ of certiorari to the united states court
of appeals for the ninth circuit
[March 28, 1995]

Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
The question in this case is whether the Lanham
Trademark Act of 1946 (Lanham Act), 15 U. S. C.
1051-1127 (1988 ed. and Supp. V), permits the
registration of a trademark that consists, purely and
simply, of a color. We conclude that, sometimes, a color
will meet ordinary legal trademark requirements. And,
when it does so, no special legal rule prevents color
alone from serving as a trademark.

The case before us grows out of petitioner Qualitex
Company's use (since the 1950's) of a special shade of
green-gold color on the pads that it makes and sells to
dry cleaning firms for use on dry cleaning presses. In
1989 respondent Jacobson Products (a Qualitex rival)
began to sell its own press pads to dry cleaning firms;
and it colored those pads a similar green-gold. In 1991
Qualitex registered the special green-gold color on press
pads with the Patent and Trademark Office as a
trademark. Registration No. 1,633,711 (Feb. 5, 1991).
Qualitex subsequently added a trademark infringement
count, 15 U. S. C. 1114(1), to an unfair competition
claim, 1125(a), in a lawsuit it had already filed chal-
lenging Jacobson's use of the green-gold color.
Qualitex won the lawsuit in the District Court. 21
U. S. P. Q. 2d 1457 (CD Cal. 1991). But, the Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit set aside the judgment in
Qualitex's favor on the trademark infringement claim
because, in that Circuit's view, the Lanham Act does not
permit Qualitex, or anyone else, to register -color alone-
as a trademark. 13 F. 3d 1297, 1300, 1302 (1994).
The courts of appeals have differed as to whether or
not the law recognizes the use of color alone as a trade-
mark. Compare NutraSweet Co. v. Stadt Corp., 917
F. 2d 1024, 1028 (CA7 1990) (absolute prohibition
against protection of color alone), with In re Owens-
Corning Fiberglas Corp., 774 F. 2d 1116, 1128 (CA Fed.
1985) (allowing registration of color pink for fiberglass
insulation), and Master Distributors, Inc. v. Pako Corp.,
986 F. 2d 219, 224 (CA8 1993) (declining to establish
per se prohibition against protecting color alone as a
trademark). Therefore, this Court granted certiorari.
512 U. S. __ (1994). We now hold that there is no rule
absolutely barring the use of color alone, and we reverse
the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.

The Lanham Act gives a seller or producer the
exclusive right to -register- a trademark, 15 U. S. C.
1052 (1988 ed. and Supp. V), and to prevent his or her
competitors from using that trademark, 1114(1). Both
the language of the Act and the basic underlying prin-
ciples of trademark law would seem to include color
within the universe of things that can qualify as a
trademark. The language of the Lanham Act describes
that universe in the broadest of terms. It says that
trademarks -includ[e] any word, name, symbol, or device,
or any combination thereof.- 1127. Since human be-
ings might use as a -symbol- or -device- almost anything
at all that is capable of carrying meaning, this language,
read literally, is not restrictive. The courts and the
Patent and Trademark Office have authorized for use as
a mark a particular shape (of a Coca-Cola bottle), a
particular sound (of NBC's three chimes), and even a
particular scent (of plumeria blossoms on sewing thread).
See, e.g., Registration No. 696,147 (Apr. 12, 1960); Reg-
istration Nos. 523,616 (Apr. 4, 1950) and 916,522 (July
13, 1971); In re Clarke, 17 U. S. P. Q. 2d 1238, 1240
(TTAB 1990). If a shape, a sound, and a fragrance can
act as symbols why, one might ask, can a color not do
the same?
A color is also capable of satisfying the more impor-
tant part of the statutory definition of a trademark,
which requires that a person -us[e]- or -inten[d] to use-
the mark
-to identify and distinguish his or her goods, includ-
ing a unique product, from those manufactured or
sold by others and to indicate the source of the
goods, even if that source is unknown.- 15 U. S. C.
True, a product's color is unlike -fanciful,- -arbitrary,- or
-suggestive- words or designs, which almost automati-
cally tell a customer that they refer to a brand. Aber-
crombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World, Inc., 537 F. 2d
4, 9-10 (CA2 1976) (Friendly, J.); see Two Pesos, Inc. v.
Taco Cabana, Inc., 505 U. S. __, __ (1992) (slip op., at
6-7). The imaginary word -Suntost,- or the words -Sun-
tost Marmalade,- on a jar of orange jam immediately
would signal a brand or a product -source-; the jam's
orange color does not do so. But, over time, customers
may come to treat a particular color on a product or its
packaging (say, a color that in context seems unusual,
such as pink on a firm's insulating material or red on
the head of a large industrial bolt) as signifying a
brand. And, if so, that color would have come to iden-
tify and distinguish the goods-i.e. -to -indicate- their
-source--much in the way that descriptive words on a
product (say, -Trim- on nail clippers or -Car-Freshner-
on deodorizer) can come to indicate a product's origin.
See, e.g., J. Wiss & Sons Co. v. W. E. Bassett Co., 59
C. C. P. A. 1269, 1271 (Pat.), 462 F. 2d 567, 569 (1972);
Car-Freshner Corp. v. Turtle Wax, Inc., 268 F. Supp.
162, 164 (SDNY 1967). In this circumstance, trademark
law says that the word (e.g., -Trim-), although not
inherently distinctive, has developed -secondary mean-
ing.- See Inwood Laboratories, Inc. v. Ives Laboratories,
Inc., 456 U. S. 844, 851, n. 11 (1982) (-secondary mean-
ing- is acquired when -in the minds of the public, the
primary significance of a product feature . . . is to
identify the source of the product rather than the prod-
uct itself-). Again, one might ask, if trademark law
permits a descriptive word with secondary meaning to
act as a mark, why would it not permit a color, under
similar circumstances, to do the same?
We cannot find in the basic objectives of trademark
law any obvious theoretical objection to the use of color
alone as a trademark, where that color has attained
-secondary meaning- and therefore identifies and
distinguishes a particular brand (and thus indicates its
-source-). In principle, trademark law, by preventing
others from copying a source-identifying mark, -reduce[s]
the customer's costs of shopping and making purchasing
decisions,- 1 J. McCarthy, McCarthy on Trademarks and
Unfair Competition 2.01[2], p. 2-3 (3d ed. 1994)
(hereinafter McCarthy), for it quickly and easily assures
a potential customer that this item-the item with this
mark-is made by the same producer as other similarly
marked items that he or she liked (or disliked) in the
past. At the same time, the law helps assure a pro-
ducer that it (and not an imitating competitor) will reap
the financial, reputation-related rewards associated with
a desirable product. The law thereby -encourage[s] the
production of quality products,- ibid., and simultaneously
discourages those who hope to sell inferior products by
capitalizing on a consumer's inability quickly to evaluate
the quality of an item offered for sale. See, e.g., 3 L.
Altman, Callmann on Unfair Competition, Trademarks
and Monopolies 17.03 (4th ed. 1983); Landes & Posner,
The Economics of Trademark Law, 78 T. M. Rep. 267,
271-272 (1988); Park 'N Fly, Inc. v. Dollar Park and
Fly, Inc., 469 U. S. 189, 198 (1985); S. Rep. No.
100-515, p. 4 (1988). It is the source-distinguishing
ability of a mark-not its ontological status as color,
shape, fragrance, word, or sign-that permits it to serve
these basic purposes. See Landes & Posner, Trademark
Law: An Economic Perspective, 30 J. Law & Econ. 265,
290 (1987). And, for that reason, it is difficult to find,
in basic trademark objectives, a reason to disqualify
absolutely the use of a color as a mark.
Neither can we find a principled objection to the use
of color as a mark in the important -functionality-
doctrine of trademark law. The functionality doctrine
prevents trademark law, which seeks to promote compe-
tition by protecting a firm's reputation, from instead
inhibiting legitimate competition by allowing a producer
to control a useful product feature. It is the province of
patent law, not trademark law, to encourage invention
by granting inventors a monopoly over new product
designs or functions for a limited time, 35 U. S. C.
154, 173, after which competitors are free to use the
innovation. If a product's functional features could be
used as trademarks, however, a monopoly over such
features could be obtained without regard to whether
they qualify as patents and could be extended forever
(because trademarks may be renewed in perpetuity).
See Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co., 305 U. S. 111,
119-120 (1938) (Brandeis, J.); Inwood Laboratories, Inc.,
supra, at 863 (White, J., concurring in result) (-A
functional characteristic is `an important ingredient in
the commercial success of the product,' and, after
expiration of a patent, it is no more the property of the
originator than the product itself-) (citation omitted).
Functionality doctrine therefore would require, to take
an imaginary example, that even if customers have come
to identify the special illumination-enhancing shape of a
new patented light bulb with a particular manufacturer,
the manufacturer may not use that shape as a trade-
mark, for doing so, after the patent had expired, would
impede competition-not by protecting the reputation of
the original bulb maker, but by frustrating competitors'
legitimate efforts to produce an equivalent illumination-
enhancing bulb. See, e.g., Kellogg Co., supra, at
119-120 (trademark law cannot be used to extend
monopoly over -pillow- shape of shredded wheat biscuit
after the patent for that shape had expired). This Court
consequently has explained that, -[i]n general terms, a
product feature is functional,- and cannot serve as a
trademark, -if it is essential to the use or purpose of the
article or if it affects the cost or quality of the article,-
that is, if exclusive use of the feature would put compet-
itors at a significant non-reputation-related disadvan-
tage. Inwood Laboratories, Inc., 456 U. S., at 850,
n. 10. Although sometimes color plays an important role
(unrelated to source identification) in making a product
more desirable, sometimes it does not. And, this latter
fact-the fact that sometimes color is not essential to a
product's use or purpose and does not affect cost or
quality-indicates that the doctrine of -functionality-
does not create an absolute bar to the use of color alone
as a mark. See Owens-Corning, 774 F. 2d, at 1123
(pink color of insulation in wall -performs no non-
trademark function-).
It would seem, then, that color alone, at least some-
times, can meet the basic legal requirements for use as
a trademark. It can act as a symbol that distinguishes
a firm's goods and identifies their source, without
serving any other significant function. See U. S. Dept.
of Commerce, Patent and Trademark Office, Trademark
Manual of Examining Procedure 1202.04(e), p. 1202-13
(2d ed. May, 1993) (hereinafter PTO Manual) (approving
trademark registration of color alone where it -has be-
come distinctive of the applicant's goods in commerce,-
provided that -there is [no] competitive need for colors
to remain available in the industry- and the color is not
-functional-); see also 1 McCarthy 3.01[1], 7.26 (-re-
quirements for qualification of a word or symbol as a
trademark- are that it be (1) a -symbol,- (2) -use[d] . . .
as a mark,- (3) -to identify and distinguish the seller's
goods from goods made or sold by others,- but that it
not be -functional-). Indeed, the District Court, in this
case, entered findings (accepted by the Ninth Circuit)
that show Qualitex's green-gold press pad color has met
these requirements. The green-gold color acts as a sym-
bol. Having developed secondary meaning (for customers
identified the green-gold color as Qualitex's), it identifies
the press pads' source. And, the green-gold color serves
no other function. (Although it is important to use some
color on press pads to avoid noticeable stains, the court
found -no competitive need in the press pad industry for
the green-gold color, since other colors are equally
usable.- 21 U. S. P. Q. 2d, at 1460.) Accordingly, un-
less there is some special reason that convincingly mili-
tates against the use of color alone as a trademark,
trademark law would protect Qualitex's use of the green-
gold color on its press pads.

Respondent Jacobson Products says that there are four
special reasons why the law should forbid the use of
color alone as a trademark. We shall explain, in turn,
why we, ultimately, find them unpersuasive.
First, Jacobson says that, if the law permits the use
of color as a trademark, it will produce uncertainty and
unresolvable court disputes about what shades of a color
a competitor may lawfully use. Because lighting
(morning sun, twilight mist) will affect perceptions of
protected color, competitors and courts will suffer from
-shade confusion- as they try to decide whether use of
a similar color on a similar product does, or does not,
confuse customers and thereby infringe a trademark.
Jacobson adds that the -shade confusion- problem is
-more difficult- and -far different from- the -determina-
tion of the similarity of words or symbols.- Brief for
Respondent 22.
We do not believe, however, that color, in this respect,
is special. Courts traditionally decide quite difficult
questions about whether two words or phrases or sym-
bols are sufficiently similar, in context, to confuse buy-
ers. They have had to compare, for example, such words
as -Bonamine- and -Dramamine- (motion-sickness reme-
dies); -Huggies- and -Dougies- (diapers); -Cheracol- and
-Syrocol- (cough syrup); -Cyclone- and -Tornado- (wire
fences); and -Mattres- and -1-800-Mattres- (mattress
franchisor telephone numbers). See, e.g., G. D. Searle &
Co. v. Chas. Pfizer & Co., 265 F. 2d 385, 389 (CA7
1959); Kimberly-Clark Corp. v. H. Douglas Enterprises,
Ltd., 774 F. 2d 1144, 1146-1147 (CA Fed. 1985); Upjohn
Co. v. Schwartz, 246 F. 2d 254, 262 (CA2 1957); Han-
cock v. American Steel & Wire Co., 40 C. C. P. A. of
New Jersey, 931, 935 (Pat.), 203 F. 2d 737, 740-741
(1953); Dial-A-Mattress Franchise Corp. v. Page, 880
F. 2d 675, 678 (CA2 1989). Legal standards exist to
guide courts in making such comparisons. See, e.g.,
2 McCarthy 15.08; 1 McCarthy 11.24-11.25
(-[S]trong- marks, with greater secondary meaning,
receive broader protection than -weak- marks). We do
not see why courts could not apply those standards to a
color, replicating, if necessary, lighting conditions under
which a colored product is normally sold. See Ebert,
Trademark Protection in Color: Do It By the Numbers!,
84 T. M. Rep. 379, 405 (1994). Indeed, courts already
have done so in cases where a trademark consists of a
color plus a design, i.e., a colored symbol such as a gold
stripe (around a sewer pipe), a yellow strand of wire
rope, or a -brilliant yellow- band (on ampules). See,
e.g., Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Tallman Conduit
Co., 149 U. S. P. Q. 656, 657 (TTAB 1966); Amstead In-
dustries, Inc. v. West Coast Wire Rope & Rigging Inc.,
2 U. S. P. Q. 2d 1755, 1760 (TTAB 1987); In re Hodes-
Lange Corp., 167 U. S. P. Q. 255, 256 (TTAB 1970).
Second, Jacobson argues, as have others, that colors
are in limited supply. See, e.g., NutraSweet Co., 917
F. 2d, at 1028; Campbell Soup Co. v. Armour & Co., 175
F. 2d 795, 798 (CA3 1949). Jacobson claims that, if one
of many competitors can appropriate a particular color
for use as a trademark, and each competitor then tries
to do the same, the supply of colors will soon be de-
pleted. Put in its strongest form, this argument would
concede that -[h]undreds of color pigments are manu-
factured and thousands of colors can be obtained by mix-
ing.- L. Cheskin, Colors: What They Can Do For You
47 (1947). But, it would add that, in the context of a
particular product, only some colors are usable. By the
time one discards colors that, say, for reasons of customer
appeal, are not usable, and adds the shades that com-
petitors cannot use lest they risk infringing a similar,
registered shade, then one is left with only a handful of
possible colors. And, under these circumstances, to per-
mit one, or a few, producers to use colors as trademarks
will -deplete- the supply of usable colors to the point
where a competitor's inability to find a suitable color
will put that competitor at a significant disadvantage.
This argument is unpersuasive, however, largely be-
cause it relies on an occasional problem to justify a
blanket prohibition. When a color serves as a mark,
normally alternative colors will likely be available for
similar use by others. See, e.g., Owens-Corning, 774
F. 2d, at 1121 (pink insulation). Moreover, if that is not
so-if a -color depletion- or -color scarcity- problem does
arise-the trademark doctrine of -functionality- normally
would seem available to prevent the anticompetitive
consequences that Jacobson's argument posits, thereby
minimizing that argument's practical force.
The functionality doctrine, as we have said, forbids the
use of a product's feature as a trademark where doing
so will put a competitor at a significant disadvantage
because the feature is -essential to the use or purpose
of the article- or -affects [its] cost or quality.- Inwood
Laboratories, Inc., 456 U. S., at 850, n. 10. The
functionality doctrine thus protects competitors against
a disadvantage (unrelated to recognition or reputation)
that trademark protection might otherwise impose,
namely their inability reasonably to replicate important
non-reputation-related product features. For example,
this Court has written that competitors might be free to
copy the color of a medical pill where that color serves
to identify the kind of medication (e.g., a type of blood
medicine) in addition to its source. See id., at 853, 858,
n. 20 (-[S]ome patients commingle medications in a con-
tainer and rely on color to differentiate one from an-
other-); see also J. Ginsburg, D. Goldberg, & A. Green-
baum, Trademark and Unfair Competition Law 194-195
(1991) (noting that drug color cases -have more to do
with public health policy- regarding generic drug sub-
stitution -than with trademark law-). And, the federal
courts have demonstrated that they can apply this
doctrine in a careful and reasoned manner, with sensi-
tivity to the effect on competition. Although we need
not comment on the merits of specific cases, we note
that lower courts have permitted competitors to copy the
green color of farm machinery (because customers
wanted their farm equipment to match) and have barred
the use of black as a trademark on outboard boat motors
(because black has the special functional attributes of
decreasing the apparent size of the motor and ensuring
compatibility with many different boat colors). See
Deere & Co. v. Farmhand, Inc., 560 F. Supp. 85, 98 (SD
Iowa 1982), aff'd, 721 F. 2d 253 (CA8 1983); Brunswick
Corp. v. British Seagull Ltd., 35 F. 3d 1527, 1532 (CA
Fed. 1994), cert. pending, No. 94-1075; see also Nor-Am
Chemical v. O. M. Scott & Sons Co., 4 U. S. P. Q. 2d
1316, 1320 (ED Pa. 1987) (blue color of fertilizer held
functional because it indicated the presence of nitrogen).
The Restatement (Third) of Unfair Competition adds
that, if a design's -aesthetic value- lies in its ability to
-confe[r] a significant benefit that cannot practically be
duplicated by the use of alternative designs,- then the
design is -functional.- Restatement (Third) of Unfair
Competition 17, Comment c, pp. 175-176 (1995). The
-ultimate test of aesthetic functionality,- it explains, -is
whether the recognition of trademark rights would sig-
nificantly hinder competition.- Id., at 176.
The upshot is that, where a color serves a significant
nontrademark function-whether to distinguish a heart
pill from a digestive medicine or to satisfy the -noble
instinct for giving the right touch of beauty to common
and necessary things,- G. K. Chesterton, Simplicity and
Tolstoy 61 (1912)-courts will examine whether its use
as a mark would permit one competitor (or a group) to
interfere with legitimate (nontrademark-related) compe-
tition through actual or potential exclusive use of an
important product ingredient. That examination should
not discourage firms from creating aesthetically pleasing
mark designs, for it is open to their competitors to do
the same. See, e.g., W. T. Rogers Co. v. Keene, 778
F. 2d 334, 343 (CA7 1985) (Posner, J.). But, ordinarily,
it should prevent the anticompetitive consequences of
Jacobson's hypothetical -color depletion- argument, when,
and if, the circumstances of a particular case threaten
-color depletion.-
Third, Jacobson points to many older cases-including
Supreme Court cases-in support of its position. In
1878, this Court described the common-law definition of
trademark rather broadly to -consist of a name, symbol,
figure, letter, form, or device, if adopted and used by a
manufacturer or merchant in order to designate the
goods he manufactures or sells to distinguish the same
from those manufactured or sold by another.- McLean
v. Fleming, 96 U. S. 245, 254. Yet, in interpreting the
Trademark Acts of 1881 and 1905, 21 Stat. 502, 33 Stat.
724, which retained that common-law definition, the
Court questioned -[w]hether mere color can constitute a
valid trade-mark,- A. Leschen & Sons Rope Co. v. Brod-
erick & Bascom Rope Co., 201 U. S. 166, 171 (1906), and
suggested that the -product including the coloring matter
is free to all who make it.- Coca-Cola Co. v. Koke Co.
of America, 254 U. S. 143, 147 (1920). Even though
these statements amounted to dicta, lower courts inter-
preted them as forbidding protection for color alone.
See, e.g., Campbell Soup Co., 175 F. 2d, at 798, and
n. 9; Life Savers Corp. v. Curtiss Candy Co., 182 F. 2d
4, 9 (CA7 1950) (quoting Campbell Soup).
These Supreme Court cases, however, interpreted
trademark law as it existed before 1946, when Congress
enacted the Lanham Act. The Lanham Act significantly
changed and liberalized the common law to -dispense
with mere technical prohibitions,- S. Rep. No. 1333,
79th Cong., 2d Sess., 3 (1946), most notably, by per-
mitting trademark registration of descriptive words (say,
-U-Build-It- model airplanes) where they had acquired
-secondary meaning.- See Abercrombie & Fitch Co., 537
F. 2d, at 9 (Friendly, J.). The Lanham Act extended
protection to descriptive marks by making clear that
(with certain explicit exceptions not relevant here),
-nothing . . . shall prevent the registration of a
mark used by the applicant which has become
distinctive of the applicant's goods in commerce.- 15
U. S. C. 1052(f) (1988 ed., Supp. V).
This language permits an ordinary word, normally used
for a nontrademark purpose (e.g., description), to act as
a trademark where it has gained -secondary meaning.-
Its logic would appear to apply to color as well. Indeed,
in 1985, the Federal Circuit considered the significance
of the Lanham Act's changes as they related to color
and held that trademark protection for color was
consistent with the
-jurisprudence under the Lanham Act developed in
accordance with the statutory principle that if a
mark is capable of being or becoming distinctive of
[the] applicant's goods in commerce, then it is
capable of serving as a trademark.- Owens-Corning,
774 F. 2d, at 1120.
In 1988 Congress amended the Lanham Act, revising
portions of the definitional language, but left unchanged
the language here relevant. 134, 102 Stat. 3946, 15
U. S. C. 1127. It enacted these amendments against
the following background: (1) the Federal Circuit had
decided Owens-Corning; (2) the Patent and Trademark
Office had adopted a clear policy (which it still main-
tains) permitting registration of color as a trademark,
see PTO Manual 1202.04(e) (at p. 1200-12 of the
January 1986 edition and p. 1202-13 of the May 1993
edition); and (3) the Trademark Commission had written
a report, which recommended that -the terms `symbol, or
device' . . . not be deleted or narrowed to preclude
registration of such things as a color, shape, smell,
sound, or configuration which functions as a mark,- The
United States Trademark Association Trademark Review
Commission Report and Recommendations to USTA
President and Board of Directors, 77 T. M. Rep. 375,
421 (1987) (hereinafter Trademark Commission); see also
133 Cong. Rec. 32812 (1987) (statement of Sen.
DeConcini) (-The bill I am introducing today is based on
the Commission's report and recommendations-). This
background strongly suggests that the language -any
word, name, symbol, or device,- 15 U. S. C. 1127, had
come to include color. And, when it amended the
statute, Congress retained these terms. Indeed, the
Senate Report accompanying the Lanham Act revision
explicitly referred to this background understanding, in
saying that the -revised definition intentionally retains
. . . the words `symbol or device' so as not to preclude
the registration of colors, shapes, sounds or configura-
tions where they function as trademarks.- S. Rep. No.
100-515, at 44. (In addition, the statute retained lan-
guage providing that -[n]o trademark by which the goods
of the applicant may be distinguished from the goods of
others shall be refused registration . . . on account of its
nature- (except for certain specified reasons not relevant
here). 15 U. S. C. 1052 (1988 ed., Supp V)).
This history undercuts the authority of the precedent
on which Jacobson relies. Much of the pre-1985 case
law rested on statements in Supreme Court opinions
that interpreted pre-Lanham Act trademark law and
were not directly related to the holdings in those cases.
Moreover, we believe the Federal Circuit was right in
1985 when it found that the 1946 Lanham Act embodied
crucial legal changes that liberalized the law to permit
the use of color alone as a trademark (under appropriate
circumstances). At a minimum, the Lanham Act's
changes left the courts free to reevaluate the pre-
existing legal precedent which had absolutely forbidden
the use of color alone as a trademark. Finally, when
Congress re-enacted the terms -word, name, symbol, or
device- in 1988, it did so against a legal background in
which those terms had come to include color, and its
statutory revision embraced that understanding.
Fourth, Jacobson argues that there is no need to
permit color alone to function as a trademark because a
firm already may use color as part of a trademark, say,
as a colored circle or colored letter or colored word, and
may rely upon -trade dress- protection, under 43(a) of
the Lanham Act, if a competitor copies its color and
thereby causes consumer confusion regarding the overall
appearance of the competing products or their packaging,
see 15 U. S. C. 1125(a) (1988 ed., Supp. V). The first
part of this argument begs the question. One can un-
derstand why a firm might find it difficult to place a
usable symbol or word on a product (say, a large indus-
trial bolt that customers normally see from a distance);
and, in such instances, a firm might want to use color,
pure and simple, instead of color as part of a design.
Neither is the second portion of the argument convinc-
ing. Trademark law helps the holder of a mark in
many ways that -trade dress- protection does not. See
15 U. S. C. 1124 (ability to prevent importation of con-
fusingly similar goods); 1072 (constructive notice of
ownership); 1065 (incontestible status); 1057(b) (prima
facie evidence of validity and ownership). Thus, one can
easily find reasons why the law might provide trade-
mark protection in addition to trade dress protection.

Having determined that a color may sometimes meet
the basic legal requirements for use as a trademark and
that respondent Jacobson's arguments do not justify a
special legal rule preventing color alone from serving as
a trademark (and, in light of the District Court's here
undisputed findings that Qualitex's use of the green-gold
color on its press pads meets the basic trademark re-
quirements), we conclude that the Ninth Circuit erred in
barring Qualitex's use of color as a trademark. For
these reasons, the judgment of the Ninth Circuit is