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Why Pink Made a Ceramic Supplier See Red

Tuesday Trivia: Why did the pink color of a ceramic hip implant make a ceramic supplier see red in 2014?

Amanda Pedersen

February 21, 2023

3 Min Read
pink ceramic hip implant ball and cup manufactured by CoorsTek
Image courtesy of CoorsTek

Back in 2014, Plochingen, Germany-based CeramTec, tried to stop Golden, CO-based CoorsTek from selling its pink CeraSurf-p devices to orthopedic device companies for use in implantable ceramic hip systems. In 2017, a U.S. District Court judge in Colorado ruled in CoorsTek's favor.

CeramTec controlled roughly 95% of the U.S. market for implantable ceramic hip components at that time.

The judge said CeramTec did not own any U.S. trademark or trade dress rights to the color pink, and that CoorsTek was free to sell its pink CeraSurf-p devices. FDA cleared CeraSurf for use in ceramic hip implant systems in February 2016.

As with most legal battles, however, the fight was far from over at the time of the 2017 ruling. In 2021, the Paris Court of Appeals upheld the cancellations of the three European Union trademarks and the dismissal of CeramTec’s trademark infringement and parasitic competition claims against CoorsTek. The court confirmed the trademarks were filed in bad faith and additionally ordered CeramTec to pay damages for abuse of trademark law, thus clearing the pathway for CoorsTek to market CeraSurf-p products in the European Union. 

CoorsTek scored yet another legal victory in its fight to market pink ceramic hip replacement components in December 2022 when the US PTO Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) ruled in its favor cancelling CeramTec's trademarks in the color pink.

“Recent global events have cast a bright light on the dangers of singular or limited supply sources in key markets,” said Jonathan Coors, CEO of CoorsTek. “This decision will not only ensure a consistent supply of crucial components, it will foster competition, drive innovation, and enable efficiencies in the surgical marketplace — ultimately benefitting patients receiving critical medical care.”

The proceeding was initiated by CoorsTek Bioceramics in 2014 in response to an attempt by CeramTec to enforce its claimed trademark and trade dress in the color pink for its ceramic hip implant components. In its order, the TTAB found the color pink covered by the CeramTec trademark registrations to be functional, and therefore unregistrable.

CoorsTek said its CeraSurf-p ceramic material is engineered with chromium oxide dopants in an advanced ceramic matrix to provide a combination of hardness and toughness. The company said the inherent pink color of the material is a natural byproduct of the chromium oxide.

pink ceramic hip implant ball and cup manufactured by CoorsTek

According to CoorsTek, FDA also determined in February 2016 that the CeraCurf-p is substantially equivalent to predicate systems incorporating the latest generation of advanced ceramic material, including CeramTec's Biolox delta, which is also pink.

CoorsTek's CeraSurf-p ceramic femoral heads and acetabular liners have been available for clinical use as bearing surfaces for hip implant systems in South America since 2011 and in Europe since 2012.

The Coors family made ceramic subcomponents for medical equipment manufacturers and other companies for years before launching CoorsTek Medical in 2014 to develop and manufacture orthopedic medical implants and instruments. The family combined its existing medtech subcomponent development and manufacturing company, CoorsTek, with its own cardiac implantable medtech manufacturer, C5 Medical Werks, and Fort Worth, TX-based Innovation Medical Device Solutions, which the company bought in 2013.

Check back next week for a new MD+DI Trivia Tuesday question on our home page and test your knowledge about the medical device and diagnostics industry.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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