Trademark, Patent, and Copyright:
What You Need to Know

Intellectual property matters.

Color Vowel® is an innovative method and a brand that is recognized around the world. We love that you love us, and we want you to use Color Vowel®! 

You can support the continuation of our life’s work and our teacher-built company by making a legal and ethical commitment to giving appropriate and consistent attribution as described below. By following the simple guidelines provided below, you are not only doing the right thing, you are helping amplify Color Vowel® as a powerful resource for English teachers around the world.

Three teachers with a Color Vowel® mug


Trademark, Patent, and Copyright: What's the difference?

Our Color Vowel® Trademark

The phrase "Color Vowel" is our brand name. To protect our brand (and to prevent others from using our brand in ways that might distort our message or reputation), we have trademarked our brand and our logo with the US Patent and Trademark Office. That "®" symbol you see verifies that our trademark is on file with the USPTO.

  • Anytime you refer to Color Vowel® in writing, use the ® symbol.
  • Only licensed partners may display the Color Vowel/ELTS logo.

Our Color Vowel® Patent

Color Vowel® holds a patent for the audiovisual cueing system embedded in our game, Color it Out!, designed into our app, Blue Canoe®, and formalized in the techniques that comprise the Color Vowel® Approach.

  • A patent license is required of any individual or organization that wishes to integrate our patented system in their published (print or digital) instructional materials.
  • If you plan to publish or distribute your work for use beyond your own classroom, contact us about licensing options.

Our Color Vowel® Copyright

The Color Vowel® Chart is a unique graphic image with key word phrases that provide English learners and teachers with an accurate, efficient way to explore the vowel sounds of English. Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson, authors of the Color Vowel® Chart, copyrighted their work in order to protect how their life's work is used and represented. ELTS is the exclusive administrator of Color Vowel® trademark and copyright licensing. 

  • Anytime you include an image of the Chart in your own work, you must include attribution
  • If you wish to include the Color Vowel® Chart in a book, article, or other work, contact us about licensing options.
  • Modifying the Color Vowel® Chart or making your own version of the Chart for distribution is a violation of our copyright. 

Creative Commons Licensing: Educators, you'll love this!

Color Vowel® images, including the Color Vowel® Chart and our Color Vowel® Anchor Images, are licensed for educational use and other creative purposes under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).

What does CC-BY-NC-ND mean?

  • CC-BY-NC-NDCC = Creative Commons: this is just one of the kinds of licensing we offer; it is well-suited to individual teachers who wish to use our images in their instructional materials. Creative Commons licensing means consistently following all of the stipulations shown below (BY, NC, and ND).
  • BY = Attribution: You must give explicit written and/or verbal credit to Color Vowel and its authors so that your audience knows how to find us and learn more. See our ready-to-use attribution examples below.
  • NC = Non-Commercial: Using Color Vowel® images for classroom use (within your course or courses) falls within the stipulations of Creative Commons licensing. Commercial licensing options are available for individuals and organizations aiming to include Color Vowel® on their website, in promotional materials, in textbooks, in instructional software, or other published media.
  • ND = No Derivatives: You may not distribute modified versions of the Color Vowel® Chart or any of our images. 

In a nutshell: You may use Color Vowel® images with your students and in your teaching materials, both in print and online, so long as you make no changes to the materials, give appropriate credit to the authors and publisher, and remain non-commercial in your use/distribution of the images.

Contact us if you wish to include the Color Vowel® brand, the Color Vowel® Chart image, or Color Vowel® anchor images in a commercial publication or other work for commercial distribution, or if you need help understanding what constitutes commercial use.

Providing attribution: Three practical steps for success

Planning to present at a professional conference? Delivering a talk to your colleagues? Making a short informational video? 

Keep these tips in mind as you spread the word:

  • Say it. The first time you show people the Color Vowel® Chart during a given presentation, acknowledge its name and its authors. Say something like “The Color Vowel Chart, originally created by Karen Taylor and Shirley Thompson in 1999, is a visual organizer for spoken English. Here’s how it works.” Saying something like this is extremely important, as it honors our work and helps others understand that the Color Vowel Chart is copyright protected.

  • Show it. Yes, you can display the Chart in your presentation! Just be sure to include written attribution in your slide show and handouts which is accompanied by explicit verbal credit once again, something like “To learn more about the Color Vowel® Chart, please visit They sell Color Vowel® teaching materials and provide advanced training on the Color Vowel® Chart which I myself have done and highly recommend.” A statement like this makes viewers aware of our Color Vowel® training and certification program.

  • Write it. Make sure that “Color Vowel®” and “Color Vowel® Chart” always appear with the ® trademark symbol and are written in full — not as “Vowel Chart” or as “the CVC” (which is easily confused with the widely known “consonant-vowel-consonant” reference to syllable structure). If you need an abbreviated way to refer to “Color Vowel,” you can use “CV” followed by the noun that it modifies; for example, CV Chart, CV Anchor Images, CV Approach.

Attribution: How to acknowledge Color Vowel®

You are welcome to copy/paste these attribution blocks to use in your own work. If you are not sure which version of the Chart to refer to, refer to the 5th Edition, as it is our latest work and the most robust version for the purpose of teaching. 

To cite our book:

  • Taylor, K., Thompson, S. and Barr, R. (2019). The Color Vowel Approach. Santa Fe, NM: English Language Training Solutions.

To cite the Color Vowel Chart:

  • Taylor, K. & Thompson, S. "The Color Vowel® Chart," 5th Edition (2019). Used with Creative Commons licensing (CC BY-NC-ND).
When using Color Vowel® images (such as the GREEN TEA icon), include this text in the footer of the page:
  • Color Vowel® Anchor Images, 5th Edition © 2019. Used with Creative Commons licensing (CC BY-NC-ND).
Color Vowel® Approach cover

What about training others? Can I do that? 

There's a difference between ‘introducing’ other teachers to Color Vowel® and ‘training’ them in the specific techniques and language awareness that we have developed over the past 20 years and that are unique to our Color Vowel® training courses and workshops.

  • Yes! A presentation is informational and is typically shorter in time (up to 60 minutes). We encourage Color Vowel® certified educators to give presentations at professional conferences and other professional gatherings. Start your Color Vowel® journey with Color Vowel® Basics

  • No. A training (or workshop) is skills-based and outcome-oriented. Any 'presentation' that lasts longer than an hour is probably a training. ELTS is the exclusive Color Vowel® training provider for individuals, schools and organizations. If you wish to train others on the Color Vowel Chart/Approach beyond a brief introduction, you should become a Level 3 certified Color Vowel Licensed Trainer. As a Level 3 Certified and Licensed Trainer, you will be eligible to offer workshops on behalf of ELTS or through your own licensed/accredited organization.
CV Journey map October 2022

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