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Non Traditional Marks in the Pharmaceutical Industry


Colors, textures and shapes in medicines

By: Ana Catalina Monge Rodríguez

Partner at MMonivation IP

More every day consumers demand a market with more creative and sophisticated options to make their purchase decisions, which are based on the added value marks provide. That is why non-traditional marks gain strength nowadays. No exception for medicines, consumers look for stimulating and attractive components, that leave aside what is traditionally boring, and this is how colors, textures and shapes turn out fundamental in positioning these products and not only in their effectiveness.

Colors in medicines are very important and determine positive or negative effects on consumers. In “Effect of color of drugs: systematic review of perceived effect of drugs and of their effectiveness”, 1996, Anton JM de Craen, Pieter J Roos, A Leonard de Vries, Jos Kleijnen, points out that the human brain sets up itself making a mental connection with respect to the color of a certain medicine, so that, unleashes a placebo effect which makes it more effective in the organism. The positive or negative relationship a patient develops with a particular medicine can also be perceived within visual and tactile fields; therefore colors, shapes and textures play an important role in the adhesion and continuity of consumption, additional to the functional component.

Colors each day have become more interesting in pharmaceutical trademarks positioning. It is more likely for a consumer to link and remember a trademark by its color rather than by an active ingredient, for example Pfizer´s “blue” pill which is widely well-known for its color rather than by its chemical composition. Colors do matter greatly, each one brings back an idea or a different perception in people´s mind through the central nervous system. Produces stimulus, sensations, emotions and even feelings. Through neuromarketing, searches out for positive results regarding consumer decisions in an unconscious level.

At the beginning of pill medication manufacturing, the shape and color were always the same: round and white. Afterwards from 1975, with the development of soft gelatin capsules, the inclusion of colors was allowed into them. Currently, they can be produced in any color, colors, or color combinations.

Lively, bright and varied colors collaborate in responsible decision making for senior citizens and ease their management for health personnel, who is going to remember and identify more easily medications by their shape, texture or color.

Several studies have shown that colors in pharmaceutical products recall in its consumers a concept of strength and efficiency; for example, the red color suggests quick relief, the orange color brings to mind energy to the organism, green and yellow colors are linked more to dermatological products or sedative and relaxing effects. The pink color has been used to reach the women´s market and for that reason contraceptive medications are pink; on the other hand, the blue color is related more to men and that´s why, once again, “the blue pill” for the medication Viagra and even generic products with the same active ingredient are blue. For kids, the pink color works very much, because it is related to a sweet pleasant flavor; some medications for this population are pink and effectively taste good.

To protect a mark by color or colors in the pharmaceutical field, it is required to be distinctive enough by nature or use and its color must not be related with the medication´s function. It is easier to protect a color mark which is linked to a particular shape, such as three-dimensional marks (shapes and textures). Astra Zeneca submitted in the United States in 2015 an application to stop the use of color purple in an antiacid product manufactured by Dr. Reddy´s Laboratory, because they have the pill Nexium for the same therapeutic purpose, called “the purple pill”. Astra Zeneca won the case and the other laboratory had to change its pill from purple to blue. When protecting a mark color, it is basic and essential the use of the largely standardized color reproduction system called the Pantone Color Matching System.

The pharmaceutical industry worldwide is more competitive every day, this suggests the need to develop new creative ways of intellectual property protection, specifically its trademarks, to reach and achieve an appropiate and successful market product positioning; this can be done using non-traditional resources of colors, shapes and textures.

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