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Trademarking The Senses A Look At Non Traditional Marks

Trademarking the Senses: A Look at Non-Traditional Marks

Lorena Neira

Lorena Neira

6 October 20233 min read

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In the ever-evolving world of intellectual property, trademarks have taken on a new dimension over the past two decades. From 1996 to 2016, a wave of non-traditional trademark applications surged across the European Union (EU), with over 11,000 daring filings.

In jurisdictions that are part of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the Paris Convention, non-traditional marks found a place. As long as they are distinctive and visually perceptible.

Moreover, the EU Regulation (EU) 2017/1001 which came into effect on October 1, 2017, eliminated the need for a graphical representation requirement. This change was intended to facilitate the registration of non-visually perceptible signs “by using the available technology.

As you can see it's not just about logos and names anymore. This is a tale of shapes, colors, sounds, and even motion marks. So, let's dive a little bit more into this and see what else you can protect as a trademark.

1. The shape of things

From 1996 to 2016, 9,042 of these non-traditional marks were filed before the EUIPO in the shape category. This means that everyday objects, like the iconic Coca-Cola bottle or the triangular Toblerone chocolate, could now be legally protected as trademarks.

They could be three-dimensional representations of products or packaging. The EU's embrace of shape trademarks meant that companies had a new canvas to showcase their creativity. It was a playground for inventors, a challenge to reimagine how everyday objects could become iconic symbols.

2. A Splash of Color

The world of non-traditional trademarks was painted in a vibrant palette of colors. During the same period, 1,210 applications were filed for color trademarks in the EU. These color marks consisted exclusively of a single color or a combination of colors, all without contours.

Have you ever wondered why some of us get excited when we tear back the corner of wrapping paper and see that famous trademarked Tiffany blue?

To secure a trademark for a single color or a combination of the same, they must prove that the specific color or combination of colors distinguishes their brand from other competitors in their industry.

This is no mere paint-by-numbers exercise; it is a creative endeavor that challenges companies to own a piece of the rainbow.

Remember, you must have proof that your specific color distinguishes your brand from competitors in your industry.

3. The Symphony of Sound

As we journey deeper into the non-traditional trademark territory, we stumble upon a world filled with sounds and melodies. Sound marks, consisting exclusively of a sound or a combination of sounds, began making waves. These sound trademarks could be heard and recognized, much like a jingle or a unique brand sound.

In 1999, the iconic Nokia ringtone was the first sound to be registered as a trademark in the European Union. This was music to the ears of companies looking to differentiate themselves in the market.


4. Have you heard of "motion marks"?

Even if you've researched what can be trademarked, you probably have yet to hear about motion trademark rights.

They may also be referred to as "movement marks."

These lesser-known marks are distinguished by movement or change of the position of the mark's elements. This may also include a sequence of still images that depict motion.

It could even be a short video or animation that represents your brand.

*Double click in the video above to see the motion mark.

If you have something like this, start your trademark application today.

Imagine owning the trademark for that catchy tune you can't get out of your head!

Registering a non-traditional trademark, such as a unique sound, color, shape, or motion, offers numerous advantages. It enhances brand distinctiveness and recognition, setting your brand apart in a crowded marketplace and fostering consumer loyalty. This form of trademark registration provides legal protection, preventing others from using similar elements that could confuse consumers and allowing for international recognition. It also grants flexibility in adapting to evolving market trends, turning these unconventional elements into valuable assets, and building consumer trust, ultimately bolstering your brand's identity and market presence.

For more information or to speak to one of our experts, contact us now.

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Is registering a non-traditional trademark significantly different from registering a regular trademark?

No, the process is almost confusingly similar. The only difference is the need to demonstrate why a particular sound or color is characteristic of your brand.

What are the types of non-traditional trademarks?

There is no closed catalogue, but the most frequently mentioned are colors, shapes and sounds.

Can a non-traditional trademark only be registered in the European Union?

No. These marks, if they meet the guidelines necessary to be considered non-traditional marks, can be registered anywhere in the world, including: in Great Britain or the USA.

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