A side-by-side comparison of ads from NYU Langone and Northwell...

A side-by-side comparison of ads from NYU Langone and Northwell Health. NYU Langone is suing Northwell Health over ads that the former says are "confusingly similar" to its own.  Credit: NYU Langone Health

NYU Langone Health System is suing Northwell Health over a shade of purple used in similar advertising.

The New York City-based hospital group filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of New York alleging that New Hyde Park-based Northwell Health has turned to nearly identical advertising that confuses the two competitors.

NYU Langone said their “distinct purple color” has been used for a century in panel advertising and branding. The group of hospitals said that Northwell began to copy their color in advertising, with similar accent colors and fonts, after NYU Langone made a push into Long Island in 2019.

“Through its confusingly similar advertising, Northwell has engaged, and continues to engage, in an apparent scheme to trade off the good will and reputation of NYU Langone,” attorneys for NYU Langone wrote in the complaint.

Northwell officials defended the network's branding after the lawsuit was filed Thursday.

“NYU Langone’s claim that it owns the color purple for health care services is nothing short of preposterous. And it’s an insult that part of the complaint includes a hospital’s Code Lavender COVID-19 memorial. Northwell Health is proud of its distinct branding, which uses a wide variety of colors, and how it leverages research, education and clinical excellence to differentiate from others in the market. Northwell is much more than just a color in our ads,” said Ramon Soto, senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer for Northwell.

The lawsuit states that Northwell did not respond to a May 25 cease-and-desist letter. The lawsuit is seeking undetermined damages, attorney fees and a permanent injunction barring Northwell from “confusingly similar advertising.”

“Northwell, however, has recently engaged in a pattern of copying NYU Langone’s distinctive advertising and marketing campaigns, incorporating NYU Langone’s unique color schemes and certain specific accent colors, color combinations, font styles and types, headline styles, layout and format, and overall look and feel,” NYU Langone’s complaint states.

NYU Langone notes that it filed for trademarks in 2019 featuring a white cross against a purple background. It says that NYU Langone’s 2017 style guide features the “distinctive purple color, accent colors featuring teal and orange and specific sans serif-font white headlines."

The lawsuit also features side-by-side comparisons of Northwell and NYU Langone advertisements using the same color pattern.

New York University notes that its athletes wear violet and white and are known as “the Violets,” and also notes the school's style guide cites violet as its official color.

“The color purple is, and for over 150 years has been, closely associated with NYU. The origin of NYU’s century-plus use of the color purple, and particularly violet, dates back to at least 1868 when violet appeared as the color of NYU,” the lawsuit states.

NYU Langone officials said Northwell changed its marketing pattern from a more solid white advertisement after NYU Langone began to expand on Long Island and began getting national accolades such as hospital rankings, “posing a perceived competitive threat to Northwell.”

NYU Langone officials contend that Northwell also bathed its Peconic Bay Medical Center in the same purple color used in similar advertising.

“Northwell’s scheme has, in fact, created actual confusion in the market, causing confusion as to a Northwell hospital’s affiliation,” the lawsuit states. “This actual confusion, as well as the fact that NYU Langone and Northwell are direct competitors in the same market, advertising similar healthcare services in the same media channels, and directed to the same healthcare consumers, strongly indicate that Northwell’s confusingly similar advertising is likely to cause consumer confusion and harm to NYU Langone.”

CORRECTION: NYU Langone filed for trademarks in 2019 featuring a white cross against a purple background, and its 2017 style guide highlights distinctive features of its ads, the company said in the lawsuit. A previous version of this story attributed the trademarks and style guide to the wrong health system.

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