Judge rejects NYU Langone claim that Northwell Health stole its color purple


New York University does not reign supreme over its use of the color purple. 

A federal judge rejected NYU Langone Medical Center’s claims rival Northwell Health ripped off its signature violet hues in advertising materials.

The two regional medical giants are competing for patients in Long Island as well as parts of the city, including Manhattan.

NYU Langone Health claimed that Northwell Health stole its violet colors. Christopher Sadowski
Both NYU Langone and Northwell ran social media ads with similar coloring.
District Judge Valerie Caproni said that NYU Langone’s claims were too vague. Alamy Stock Photo

In her 18-page ruling, U.S. Manhattan District Judge Valerie Caproni suggested NYU’s trademark suit read more like purple haze rather than a concise argument over trademark infringement, calling it “vague and overbroad.”

“NYU Langone’s allegations describing its trade dress are confusing and expansive.
The complaint provides a laundry list of elements …..that encompasses such a wide variety of features that it would be difficult for competitors to know whether their advertisement falls within the trade dress,” Caproni wrote in the March 1 decision.

She noted some of NYU’s own ads have varying color schemes, such as teal and orange with just a “splash of purple.”

Caprioni granted Northwell Health’s motion to dismiss NYU Langone’s complaint, which also included accusations of false advertising and unfair competition.

But the judge left the door open for NYU to file an amended complaint.

Northwell Health took a victory lap Saturday.

“While we are pleased by these rulings, we are disappointed in NYU Langone’s continuing waste of resources and funds and diverting the attention of the communities we both serve with such baseless allegations,” said Ramon Soto, Northwell Health’s chief marketing and communications officer.

Caprioni granted Northwell Health’s motion to dismiss NYU Langone’s complaint. Peconic Bay Medical Center – Northwell Health

In its motion to dismiss, Northwell Health said, “NYU Langone does not own a trademark registration for any shade of purple for healthcare services, and its case is based on cherry-picking certain pieces of Northwell advertising to make false claims, including an attack on our hospital’s week-long COVID-19 recognition of health care workers.”

New York University is so linked to the color purple that “Violets” is the nickname of its sports teams, its torch logo is purple and the color is streamed across its web pages. The elite school has used purple as its signature color for more than 100 years.

The legal trademark fight is not over, an NYU Langone rep vowed Saturday.

“We are pleased the court recognized that NYU Langone may have an actionable claim against Northwell’s imitation of NYU Langone’s distinctive advertising and look forward to providing the court with greater detail,” said NYU Langone spokesman Steve Ritea. “The striking side-by-side comparisons continue to demonstrate how Northwell is attempting to confuse the public by capitalizing on our unmatched reputation for exceptional quality and safety outcomes, which is a disservice to patients seeking the best care.”


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