US company SparkFun is forced to incinerate 2,000 multimeters because they are yellow. They were intercepted by the US department of homeland security (keeping the world safe from illegal multi meters! on the basis of a US International Trade Commission Exclusion Order. But this is all terribly wrong. The original trademark text of the Fluke trademark filing:
Indication of Colors claimed: Color is not claimed as a feature of the mark.
Description of Mark: The mark consists of the colors dark gray and yellow as applied to the goods. […]
Well that’s nothing if not confusing, but I’d reckon that in a legal sense, the first sentence is rather relevant: colour is not claimed as a feature of the mark.
There is another factor, which is that multi meters have existed for many decades of course, first analog (70s/80s) and later digital (90s, possibly earlier) – particularly the digital ones have actually always tended to be yellow, regardless of brand. It’s just one of those things. So at least an all-yellow case far predates the Fluke trademark.
So what it comes down to in this case is that Fluke’s trademark is awkwardly phrased and was accepted anyhow. Then a trade commission ruled on something specific, and thus customs (hum no, wrong – dept of homeland security – but why them and not customs!?) now gets to enforce it all. Possibly to Fluke’s benefit, but it doesn’t aid the market as a whole so it’s detrimental to all consumers and many companies. It’s not any individual’s “fault” as such, but rather a series of mishaps that culminate into silly – and now it’s costing SparkFun. Quite likely there are many other instances currently happening because of this. Very sad.