Date: Wed, 16 Oct 1996 10:16:52 -0400

From: David Dailey <>

To: Multiple recipients of list <>

Subject: reverse engineering a color?

The recent discussion on this list of reverse engineering software and a visit to a local hardware store triggered the following thoughts: The hardware store, part of a regional chain, has a wonderful gadget: a "color-analyzer." The customer brings in a sample of the paint they want to match, the machine takes a picture, and then

"reverse-engineers" the mixing of pigments to produce a match. In my case, I had some paint from manufacturer A, but the store only sold paint by manufacturer B. Given the status of color as potentially trademarkable entity (see Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co. Inc., in which the U.S. Supreme Court allowed a claim of trademark infringement on a color), I was wondering if this wonderful device might indeed be naughty.

It is not too different, it seems, from the protection of a small set of parameters in software: a paint color can be seen as an n-tuple consisting of ratios of n various primary pigments, though perhaps the set of basic primaries varies from company to company. I gather that with parameters in software, some are arguing for copyright status. If so, why not for colors too? and would the proposed reverse engineering statututes extend to parameter sets? Just musing a bit...

David Dailey (