Adobe spokeswoman Erin Di Leva said the company is “researching ways to reduce the impact on our customers.” Iain Pike, senior global product and licensing manager at Pantone, says the company doesn’t “determine pricing, features, or user experience” offered by companies that use its color library, but does work with these companies “to create the best possible customer experience.
Aaron Perzanowski, co-author of The end of ownership, is studying intellectual and personal property law at the University of Michigan Law School. He says the standoff shows “how the shift from products to services erodes consumer ownership and puts us at the mercy of largely irresponsible corporations”. He adds that Pantone has no underlying intellectual property rights with respect to individual colors or the color libraries of which they are a part. “There is no copyright protection available for individual colors, and limited trademark rights for specific colors do not apply here either,” says Perzanowski.
Semple’s anger is typical of the design community. “They did it in the worst possible way,” says Laura Sofia Heimann, a German designer and developer, who reverse engineering how she thinks Adobe plans to block users from using Pantone color swatches – and therefore any potential avenues designers and users could take to try and circumvent the blocks.
Over the weekend, Heimann probed how Adobe’s software reads the Pantone color palette. His quick conclusion is that the company has measures in place to recognize whenever a Pantone color has been used in a file at any given time. And when it finds this reference, it changes the colors to black.
Heimann thinks it’s possible for users to work around this problem by deleting all Pantone colors from the swatches used in the files and then saving them again, preventing their files from turning black. Removing Pantone colors from swatches in a file converts them to traditional non-Pantone colors. “If you’re not using Pantone presets for color fidelity, you can remove the Pantone presets from your file to convert them to normal colors,” Heimann explains.
The problem is that most people who use Pantone colors use them because printers around the world standardize color production using Pantone profiles. “I do a lot of screen printing,” says Semple. “I need a reliable reference for my printers to make sure we’re both talking about the same color.” And for the moment, there is not really an alternative solution. It is an industry standard. “I can ask a manufacturer in the Far East to make something and say, ‘Blue is 660c,’ and they know what I’m talking about,” Semple says, referencing the Pantone code for a Facebook-style blue color. . “Exactly.”