The value of a sound trademark

The world’s most valuable trademarks are APPLE ($98 billion), GOOGLE ($93 billion) and COCA-COLA ($79 billion). Not only does the standard word mark or logo of these brands represent great value to the balance sheet of the business, butcertain sound trademarks may achieve even greater recognition and represent even greater value than the associated word mark or logo.

Intel sound trademark
A well-known example is the sound trademark of computer chip manufacturer Intel. Intel spends hundreds of millions a year on advertising containing the sound fragment.

Unfortunately, the creator sold the rights to the sound fragment early on. As he admits, if he had kept the rights he would have been able to earn millions.

Listen to radio commercials
The impact of sound trademarks is again apparent in the radio commercials featuring well-known sound fragments from a supermarket chain, a fast-food chain and a producer of traditional Dutch food items. The origin of the radio commercials is easy to guess. Thus, a sound fragment can have a dramatic impact on the consumer and serve as a distinguishing sign.

Registering as a trademark 
Creations with a great (potential) value justify extensive protection under IP law. For example, sound fragments can be subject to protection under both copyright and trademark law. However, copyright is limited in time and harder to prove in any dispute, as it is a non-registered right. On the other hand, a trademark registration can be extended for eternity. The great advantage of trademark law is that the trademark is included in a public register, which clearly records the filing date and holder.

Thus, any company using a sound which identifies its product or service should take steps to protect it as a trademark, and thus protect its associated value.

This is an Insight article, written by a selected partner as part of IAM's co-published content. Read more on Insight

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