Your trademark is the most important asset you possess as a company. Don’t underscore it, as branding helps you stand out in the crowd. The good relations your brand builds give you a competitive advantage.
Even the MGM’s lion’s roar is protected by law – that is how far a brand can reach!
So, what are sound trademarks or aural logos?
Just like the MGM lion’s roar, other sounds, if audio represented, can be trademarked. This can happen, provided they create a subconscious idea of the service or product in the public’s mind.
A sound mark, in this case, must be distinguished from a product’s operational features. Also, the sound should only be applicable to the product for which it is registered. This is done to avoid confusion in the public eye.
Registering a Sound Mark in Canada: What You Must Include
To give you an idea how a sound mark can be used, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) mandates specific requirements for registering an aural logo, including
- The mark’s reason (sound) must be specified in the registration.
- A description of the sound must be provided.
- An MP3 recording of the sound must be added, not exceeding two megabytes. Other formats cannot be used while registering.
Keep this in mind: The CIPO normally processes registrations for fairly short aural renditions. If the sound is longer, you typically need to obtain a copyright. In Canada, the owner of a sound trademark can produce the sound over a 10-year-period and renew the trademark after that time.
In the U.S., again, make sure the sound for your brand is distinctive and unique. For example, if the sound of an appliance, for example, replicates the sounds of other brand-name appliances, you can’t register a trademark for the sound. A functional or or operational sound, in this case, is not unique or indistinguishable.
In sum, if a sound is easily associated with the source of a service or product in a consumer’s mind, it might potentially be trademarked.
For example, you might use a heart beat to represent your brand as a heart care facility or to support CPR educational activities for the same company in different venues.
Therefore, a sound mark identifies and distinguishes a brand service or product through audio rather than visual means.. Examples of sound marks include words accompanied by music or a series of musical notes or tones supported or not supported with lyrics.
Whether you have your sound trademarked in Canada or the U.S., you must make separate registrations, something which is far easier to do with the help of a trademark attorney or an international trademark services company that handles both Canadian and U.S. registrations.
Examples of Sounds that Have Been Branded in the U.S.
Indeed, a sound trademark must be definable, as is evidenced by sounds that are easily recognized by U.S. audiences. For example, the following sounds have been trademarked in the U.S. – sounds that are easily acknowledged in the U.S. and many parts of the world.
- The ticking stopwatch on the “60 Minutes” T.V. broadcast.
- The yell of Tarzan in the old Tarzan movies.
- The breathing of Darth Vader in Star Wars.
- The giggle of the Pillsbury Doughboy.
- The ring of the bell representing the Taco Bell product line.
Test Your Sound Mark with Focus Groups
As you can see, these trademarked sounds are definitely important, as they develop an immediate association with a product, production, or service. Therefore, before developing a sound mark, you need to test it out. Test it with focus groups and refine it, if needed. This will help you develop the mark that gives you the type of image you want your brand to convey.
As mentioned above, you might use a heart beat to see how it resonates with a focus group for your brand, or for your expansion goals for a medical facility or CPR educational site. Check people’s reactions, get their responses, and see how the sound recording impresses them overall. Is it fleeting or does it stick in their minds?
Perform a Touch Point Analysis
In fact, it wouldn’t hurt to perform a touch point assessment for your sound mark to see when it’s more effective to use the sound recording. For example, ask yourself:
- When should people hear the trademarked sound?
- Is the sound best played when the product or service is being used or when a service or product is being purchased?
- Will you need to adapt the sound to individual buying or use situations?
Again, you’ll have to look more in depth at the sound’s uniqueness and your audience’s response.
Is the Sound Really Unique?
While sound trademarks are fewer in number than other trademarks, it still doesn’t mean that your sound isn’t similar to an existing sound mark.
Therefore, you may want to use a software, such as Shazam, to ensure that the sound you’re using is not similar to tunes or sounds already in use.
One of the burdens lifted by the CIPO or U.S. Patent Trade Office (USPTO) for registering a sound mark is proof of use. Therefore, if you apply for a sound mark registration in Canada or the U.S. for a your sound trademark, you won’t run into any roadblocks along these lines.
Just make sure, before you apply, that you meet all the guidelines for registration. If you believe the sound will not meet the trademark requirements, check about obtaining copyright protection instead.
How Does Your Sound Stand Out?
To ensure that your mark is unique, ask yourself how it will stand out to your audience. To answer this question, check the interests and attitudes of your market’s demographic. For example, some sounds may appeal more to younger women than interest older men.
Therefore, you need to match the sound with your target audience. That is why you will need to do your research before adapting a sound to your product line or services.
Once you decide on a sound, again, fully check out the criteria for registration. Developing a sound and using it for marketing will help you professionally as well as socially and financially. Record a sound that people like to hear and they will give you more of what you want to realize as a marketer and a company.
Author: Donna Ryan
Author Bio: Donna Ryan is a freelance writer and journalist. You can learn more about her publishing and writing services at inkypub.com. Contact her at email@example.com with your comments or inquiries.