A ‘Deere’ move: Court stops machinery competitor using ‘famous’ colours

A US District Court in Kentucky recently ruled in favor of Deere & Company (John Deere) in a lawsuit that was filed to protect the use of the trademark green and yellow colour combination.

The green and yellow livery, of course, is familiar to anyone who’s ever stumbled across a piece of John Deere agricultural equipment.

John Deere
Image source: Shane Casey

Following a one-week bench trial that initially took place back in June, the US District Court in Paducah, Kentucky found in favour of Deere in October.

The court decision permanently bans the use of the John Deere colours by FIMCO Inc – a South Dakota company that manufactures and markets agricultural sprayers under the ‘Ag Spray Equipment’ brand name.

John Deere
An Ag Spray Equipment brochure. The picture, somewhat ironically, depicts one of the company’s sprayers coupled to a John Deere tractor

Deere said the lawsuit is part of an ongoing and vigorous effort to protect the company’s trademarks and intellectual property.

The lawsuit asserted that FIMCO’s green and yellow equipment infringed on Deere’s trademark for the colour combination. Deere also claimed that use of the colours by another manufacturer confuses the public as to where the product originated and dilutes the value of the John Deere brand.

In a 107-page decision, the District Court found for John Deere on all its claims.

The court ruled that the green and yellow colour combination qualified as a “famous” trademark, since as early as the late 1960s.

John Deere

It found that FIMCO intentionally chose green and yellow to create an association with the John Deere brand.

John Deere
Does this Ag Spray Equipment sprayer look confusingly similar to a John Deere?
The court also found that FIMCO’s use of green and yellow was likely to cause confusion among purchasers, as to whether its agricultural equipment was manufactured by or endorsed by John Deere.

The court decision said FIMCO Inc – and all persons affiliated with the company – are permanently enjoined from using the combination of green and yellow colours in the manufacture, distribution, marketing, advertising or sale of trailed and wheeled agricultural equipment – in any locality within the US.

The court gave FIMCO 60 days – a period that has not yet lapsed – to file with the court a plan on how it will comply with the permanent ban.