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Semple-y Pink

July 20, 2023
A bottle and a box, both the same shade of pink with the stylized work Pinkie across.

A bottle of Pinkie: The Barbiest Pink (photo courtesy of Stuart Semple and Culture Hustle)

In recent years, people have tested the limits of what you can and cannot copyright. Ten years ago, the US Supreme Court ruled against the company Myriad Genetics after trying to get patents for naturally occurring DNA sequences. Parker Brothers currently owns the copyright to the terms Ouija Board and Ping-Pong. So if you’re not getting them from Parker Brothers, you’re just getting a generic spirit board or a packet of table tennis balls. This obsession with copyright and trademark also applies to different colors. Plenty of private entities technically own or have exclusive rights to various colors, including Tiffany Blue, T-Mobile Magenta, Pullman Brown (trademarked by UPS), and Canary Yellow (trademarked by 3M, the maker of Post-It notes). Anyone who uses these colors without express permission from the trademark holders may be at the receiving end of a lawsuit if things go that far. Typically, this only happens when a company in the same industry uses that color. For example, Hershey’s has monopolized the use of orange in the candy packaging and marketing since that color is often associated with Reese’s. One color that might be more visible currently, mainly because of Greta Gerwig’s new movie, is Barbie Pink, which Mattel trademarks. However, artist Stuart Semple does not believe that anyone or any company has the right to own colors, and he expresses this in a way that is hilarious and just a little bit petty.

Semple has created his own colors before and has just come out with a new one called Pinkie, which he calls the “Barbiest pink”. But while Mattel prohibits anyone from using their Barbie Pink, Semple has made Pinkie available to everyone except for Mattel. When you purchase an order of Pinkie paint, you must sign forms swearing that you are not an employee of or associated with Mattel. This is not the first time that Semple has done this. In 2016, British artist Anish Kapoor bought the rights to a new color, Vantablack. It is considered the blackest black paint in the world, absorbing 99.96% of the light that touches it. Kapoor caused quite a stir when he did this, with many artists saying that no individual should have exclusive rights to a color. In response, Semple announced he had developed some new colors, including Pinkest Pink, Yellowest Yellow, Greenest Green, and Loveliest Blue. Eventually, he would develop Black 3.0 and Blink, his proprietary brands of black acrylic paint and black ink, which he marketed as the darkest shades of black available, or, in his words, they are “Stupidly Black”. Regarding all these new colors, Semple made them available for purchase along with forms requiring anyone who buys the colors to swear that they are not Anish Kapoor, nor are they affiliated with or buying on behalf of Anish Kapoor. Semple has even taken a shot at Tiffany’s, creating his own shade of Robin’s egg blue that he called Tiff.

Similar to Tiff, which comes in a box nearly identical to the ones used by Tiffany’s, Pinkie comes in bright pink packaging with a clear plastic front, evoking the design Mattel uses to sell Barbie dolls. According to Semple and his company Culture Hustle, these paints do not constitute theft or copyright infringement, but rather these colors being “liberated”. Pinkie is not exactly a match to Barbie Pink, but that was intentional. Semple claims he set out to make an “even better” shade of pink. “It is SO pink that it’s even pinker than the Pinkest Pink. And I did that to show that everyone can have a color that is way better than theirs.” Starting on July 28th, 5 oz. bottles of Pinkie will become available for purchase at $34.99.