IP in the Tiffany’s Acquisition—It’s the Box That Counts

Big news in the world of luxury goods:  earlier this week, French multinational LVMH (Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA) acquired renowned jeweler Tiffany’s for $16.2bn. According to Reuters, one of the biggest draws for the luxury conglomerate was the breadth and value of Tiffany’s IP.  The famous Tiffany packaging, boxes of trademarked “Tiffany Blue” tied with white satin ribbon, might be more pricey than any jewels. “We’re [now] the owner of a colour”, said Bernard Arnault, CEO of LVMH.  “It’s a pretty rare thing.”

UPDATE December 23rd, 2021:

The deal between Tiffany & Co and LMVH did not proceed as planned.   Tiffany & Co was not immune to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and experienced a period of losses before the deal was set to close.  LMVH decided to walk away from the planned acquisition, also citing a request from the French government to do so.  Tiffany responded by filing a lawsuit and LMVH filed a countersuit.  Ultimately, the acquisition was re-negotiated and the deal closed in early 2021 for USD$15.8 billion ($425 million less than the original amount).

Background of the Tiffany Blue Box

Tiffany Blue was standardized in 2001 as a custom colour creation by Pantone, called “1837 Blue”, referring to the year Tiffany’s was founded.  According to the Tiffany website, a Tiffany’s rule first reported in 1906 and still enforced today is ”never to allow a box bearing the name of the firm, to be taken out of the building except with an article which has been sold by them and for which they are responsible”.  This is likely how Tiffany Blue and the Tiffany Blue Box have maintained their strong association with the Tiffany brand, and how a simple colour came to be a symbol of luxury and affluence. 

The longevity and consistency of use of Tiffany Blue and the Tiffany Blue Box are both key reasons for the strong association people have between the shade of blue, the style of packaging, and high-quality jewelry.  Few brands rival this marketing history, which puts Tiffany & Co in the unique position of owning a colour.  The Tiffany Blue Box with white satin ribbon has been referred to as “very possibly the most recognizable and most desired retail container in history” – no doubt a part of the reason that the company is worth nearly 16 billion dollars today!