Unconventional Trademarks

Posted Monday, July 27, 2009 by Katie Long.

Trademarks protection is for more than just business names. Other mark forms eligible for federal trademark registration include numbers, symbols, slogans, tag lines, sounds, smells, package designs, and colors. When attempting to register a mark, regardless of its form, the Trademark Office considers whether or not the mark creates a separate commercial impression which identifies and distinguishes the goods of one party from the goods of another. While the spectrum of marks that theoretically can be registered is vast, in practice it can be difficult to get some of the more unconventional marks (color, sound, smell) registered. To obtain registration of an unconventional mark, one must have a heavily supported showing of secondary meaning. Secondary meaning is attained when the consuming public recognizes the mark in its primary sense, as well as recognizing the mark as an indication of the source of the associated product. Some interesting marks that have been able to show this heightened level of recognition include Owens-Corning Fiberglass Corporation’s distinctive pink coloring of their fiberglass insulation and the National broadcasting Company’s musical notes of g, e, and c played on the chimes.

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