We receive many questions from people who would like to start an awareness ribbon campaign or who have questions about existing ribbons. We've been making awareness ribbon jewelry and providing a free reference list of ribbons currently in use since 2001.  We started the listing because there was confusion as to what ribbons were assigned to a color and many websites were posting inaccurate information.

Unfortunately, things in the awareness world are not always ribbons and rainbows. We've been dragged into a few fights between charities over ribbons and colors, copyrights, trademarks and we can pass these experiences down to you. Hopefully it will save you some headaches and help you create an effective awareness ribbon campaign!

*Be advised: We do not provide consultation for awareness ribbon creation, campaigns or disputes. We are not lawyers. This information is not to be considered legal counsel.*

Awareness Ribbons And Finding Your color

1. What is an awareness ribbon?  An awareness ribbon in its simplest form is a loop of fabric or ribbon that is crossed over itself to form a shape that has a loop at the top and two "legs".  These are pinned or fused together in the middle where the ribbon is crossed to achieve the "awareness ribbon" shape.

2. What are awareness ribbons used for?
  The idea behind an awareness ribbon is to wear or display an object that promotes conversation about a cause, disease, event etc. that someone feels strongly about.  When you wear a ribbon, you are advertising that you would like to talk about your cause and educate or spread the word to others.  Sometimes you may wear a ribbon to honor a loved one and you might not want to talk about it.  But I cannot count the number of times I receive questions from people who saw a ribbon and were wondering what it was for.   Awareness ribbons are an affordable tool that is recognized worldwide to raise awareness!

3. What color ribbon should I wear?   Many causes already have a color assigned to them. You can see a listing of known and verified colors here.

4. What if my cause has more than one color?  There are many reasons why some causes have more than one color assigned to them.   In these cases, you can pick the color your organization uses, one that speaks to you, or the ribbon you can relate to the most.  If your cause has a color/colors assigned to it, we recommend that you wear an existing color before creating any new designations.  Too many colors dilutes the overall recognition for a cause and results in confusion.  The only time we do not recommend an existing color be used is when it has trademark or copyright restrictions that could land you in legal hot water. See below for more info.

5. Don't I have to wear an "official" color?  In reality, there are no "official" colors that take precedence over another.  Sometimes colors might be the chosen "official" color of a charity, group, or a particular campaign.  Many causes like Breast Cancer's pink ribbon are so well known that it has become the color for this cause.  This does not mean that everyone around the world absolutely has to wear pink for breast cancer.  In fact, the first breast cancer ribbon was actually peach and the breast cancer awareness stamps used by USPS were done in rainbow!

6. My cause does not have a color assigned to it on your list. What do I do now?  Search Google, Tess and as many places as possible to see if there is an existing ribbon. New ribbons are created constantly and not every ribbon is on our listing.

Creating A New Awareness Ribbon

If your cause does not appear to have a color assigned to it, you can create a new ribbon! Anyone can create an awareness ribbon and start a campaign. That is part of the power that this little piece of fabric holds for everyone! Based on our experience over the years, there are a few things that you need to consider when creating an awareness ribbon.

1. Make sure there are no existing ribbons for your cause.  Again, if there is an existing ribbon, you should use it before creating a new campaign unless an existing ribbon is not in the public domain.  Do a thorough search on Google, ask your organizations etc.

2. Search for your proposed ribbon and the slogan you will use for your campaign in TESS!  Tess is the US database to search for trademarks.  Make sure both the ribbon colors and the wording you would like to use for your campaign are not already being used and have been trademarked.   If anything comes up that might be close to what you had in mind, use something different or seek legal counsel.  Do not use the words "for the cure" in your slogan.  That string of words is definitely trademarked.

3. Should I trademark my ribbon?  My answer is a resounding NO!  As soon as you trademark a ribbon or set up rules as to how you will allow other people to use the ribbon, you effectively kill your campaign.  Remember that an awareness ribbon is meant to be positive force usable by everyone to show support for a cause.  If you place restrictions, trademarks etc. on your ribbon, nobody will want to use it.  You will appear to be greedy which is the very opposite of what you are trying to accomplish.

4. What does it mean to release a ribbon to the public domain?  All ribbon color schemes should be released to the public domain because awareness ribbons are meant for the public.   This means that even though you are the creator of the ribbon, you are giving the public free use of the idea of the ribbon colors, pattern or special shapes used.  They can paint a t-shirt with it, put it on their car, design jewelry and give out as many ribbons as they want without fear of infringement.

5. Shouldn't my ribbon be protected by copyright?   If you release the colors of your ribbon to the public domain that does not mean you are giving away the copyright for your own unique graphics or designs that you create with it too.  Any graphics, logos, jewelry, or unique designs that you create are still covered under your copyright.  People would be free to come up with their own unique designs, but they cannot copy yours.  Think about how many pink ribbons products we have and how effective that campaign is.  The idea of the pink ribbon and the awareness ribbon shape itself is in the public domain.  Any products, drawings etc. that people make with the pink ribbon is under their copyright.

6. Should I use my ribbon in my company or groups logo?  I do not recommend that only the ribbon be used as your logo.  The reason behind this is you want your ribbon to go worldwide and for it to be used by as many people as possible.  A logo is something that only your group or company should use.   If you want your ribbon in your logo, incorporate it into something really unique along with other elements that set it apart from just the ribbon.

7. Be 100% sure of your final colors before you release your ribbon to the public domain!  Once an awareness ribbon is released online electronically or even on hard copy, there is no taking it back.  You cannot change your mind or erase it.   Once it is in the public domain and on the internet, it will be there forever.  People will use it to show support for that cause forever!  Keep your colors as simple as possible.  A ribbon that is too complex is hard to duplicate.  People will always use a ribbon they can make themselves with readily available craft supplies over one they cannot.

8. Start a campaign and get your ribbon out there!   It is very easy to get started on Facebook or other social media sites, do press releases etc.  You can submit your ribbon to ribbon listings like ours to help spread the word even more.  Just keep in mind we (as well as other sites) have requirements for posting ribbons.

9. If you duplicated an existing ribbon color or you find out later that someone else has another ribbon for the same cause, do not get nasty!  I simply cannot stress this enough.  There have been several occasions where one group or organization starts fighting with another over ribbons.  We've heard "Our ribbon came first" or yours is not the "official ribbon" etc. etc.  Nothing good comes out of these conversations.   In the end the patients and loved ones suffer from such unnecessary bickering.  When you create a ribbon, do it in the spirit of sharing and education!  If someone else has a different ribbon for the same cause, remember the goal remains the same.  Save your energy and passion for spreading awareness and support those who share your cause.

**Again, we strongly suggest that you seek legal counsel with any questions about creating a new ribbon campaign, how to set up a campaign or deal with any legal issues that might arise down the road.** 


Tina Koenig

Date 1/31/2014


Date 1/31/2014

Elaine Jenkins

Date 10/20/2014


Date 10/20/2014

Brooke Burton

Date 12/1/2014


Date 12/3/2014

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