A sound trademark is a trademark where the sound is utilized to perform the trademark function of uniquely distinguishing the commercial source of products or goods and services. A sound mark, in recent times, has been increasingly used as a trademark in the marketplace. It is a non-conventional trademark. Sounds can assist in classifying the source or trade origin of a product or service.
The new provision requires the sound to be submitted in an MP3 format. It should not exceed 30 seconds length and graphical representation of the sound notations. The aspirants had to register applications with graphical representation or by spelling out the tune, earlier tpo sound mark..
For example, in 2008, Yahoo was awarded the first sound mark. It has the human voice yodeling Yahoo. The first Indian entity to receive sound mark registration was ICICI Bank. Here is some more registered sound mark in India:
- National Stock Exchange (Theme song)
- Britannia industries (four-note bell sound)
- Cisco (Tune heard on logging in to the conferencing service web ex)
- Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan noise by its toy action figure)
- Nokia (guitar records on turning on the device)
Benefits of Sound Mark
- Brand Protection: Here the brand is what the customer identifies with the business. Additionally, it is how the public understands the same. Eventually, the true value of a company goes beyond the goodwill of the company. Once you have sound trademark assurance, you automatically have the right to claim anyone who violates those rights. If a third party handles the sound mark without approval, you can easily file a lawsuit in a federal court.
- Exclusive rights to the mark: The principal advantage of registering a brand is exclusivity. This indicates that you will be the only person in the country who announces or sells the products or services with the same brand name.
- Supports business reputation: Developing the brand of the company at an early stage is very essential for the potential development and success of the business. A great and exceptional brand that is guaranteed by trademark registration is a strong legal basis on which you can increase the status of your business in the market. These benefits can support you and your business to make your sound mark in today’s global, corporate world.
- Developing the sound mark: Before stepping into the sound mark registration, it is important to develop a final version of the sound mark. It resonates well with the consumers and reflects the image you want your brand to convey. It will be better to test the audio recording with focus groups after the initial prototypes have been confirmed. Consider conducting an audio touchpoint analysis that evaluates where the audio recording will come into contact with the consumers. And check whether the sound should be the same at every touchpoint or should be adapted to reflect different needs.
Checklist of a sound mark
- It must explicitly state that the trademark application is for the registration of a sound mark.
- There must be a design or drawing that graphically describes the sound, for instance, a waveform or a note sheet that precisely specifies the notes are resting.
- There must be a description of the sound, for instance, listening to the notes in the sound, or the recognizable equivalent of the sound such as an animal noise.
- There must be a provision of an electronic recording of the sound in CD or DVD format, with other formats not being accepted for registration.
Sound Trademark in India
In this contemporary world, people have wide access to various technologies, so a sound mark along with the products associated with it, plays a prominent role in the marketing stream. By associating the products or services along with the sound mark, which allows the public to recognize the product while hearing the sound. Most countries in the world have included the concept of the “sound mark” to their existing domestic trademark law, by amendments. In India, all trademarks are governed by the Trademark Act, 1999, without including the sound mark. Even though our Indian trademark act has not explicitly defined the sound mark, it states that the marks, which are capable of being graphically represented can be registered as a trademark in India. Therefore the sound mark, which was graphically represented by a series of musical notes, with or without words can be preserved without being violated.
Recently on March 6, 2017, the Controller General of Patents, Designs, and Trademark published the Trademark rules, 2017, which has brought some changes about the procedure of registration and most importantly makes it easier for companies to apply for the registration of the sound trademark. The Trademark rules, 2017, states that where the application is made for registering the “sound” as a trademark, then it must annex the mp3 file of the sound along with the graphical representation of its music notes and written description. Before these trademark rules, 2017, the graphical representation of the sound notes is the only document required for the sound mark registration. As it was very hard for people to read the music notes alone, it became a hurdle at all stages involved in the sound mark registration process. The concept of sound marks examined, used and secured in India definitely up its world of branding.
The idea of sound marks examined, utilized and preserved in India opens up its world of branding.
Procedure for registering the sound mark in India
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The registration of the sound mark is very scarce in India, as entities concentrate only on safeguarding the trademark, like letters, symbols, color combinations, etc. Now the sound mark has become popularised everywhere in the world. Some companies in India have come forward to protect the sound mark of their product. The latest amendment, Trademark rules, 2017 has introduced some changes in the sound mark registration process. Let’s consider the registration process
- Initially, for every sound mark to be registered, the applicant has to prove the “Factual distinctiveness of the sound.
- The company, which wants to register its sound mark, must apply to the office of registrar of trademarks.
- In this application, the applicant should mention the mark as a sound mark, failing it will be considered as some other mark or device mark.
- The sound mark should be supported by the graphical representation of the sign by a musical stave representing the relative value, sharps, flats, etc.
- Now it is important to add the mp3 format of the sound mark not exceeding the length of 30 seconds in any medium along with the above information. It helps the registrar in replaying the sound multiple times for a deep scrutiny process.
- If the registrar is not satisfied with the sound mark, he/she may ask for clarification and require other supporting documents from the applicant.
- Finally, if the sound mark has a unique note and didn’t overlap with any other existing sound mark, then the sound mark will be registered and protected.
Documents required for registering a sound mark
Only a very few documents are required for registering the sound mark in India. They are
- The written description and graphical representation of the sound mark mention the musical notes written in the stave, clef (a musical symbol used to mention the pitch of the written notes), their relative value, sharps, and flats.
- The mp3 clip of the claimed sound mark, not longer than 30 seconds, should be uploaded on electronic gadgets like CD, DVD, etc
No, certain marks cannot be registered as a sound mark. They are;
- A small piece of music consisting of only 1 or 2 music notes
- A familiar and popular music
- Nursery rhymes
- Chimes (a bell sound)
No, the sound mark registration is not mandatory. It depends upon the wish of the entity to register their sound mark. If the company product has unique music and it is widely popular amidst the public, then it is safe to register the sound mark to avoid any infringement.
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