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.