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The (Trademarked) Sounds, Sights and Smells of Summer

Knowledge-based economy giving rise to new trademark opportunities

Ann Arbor, MICH— A famous sound of summer, the neighborhood ice cream truck blaring the distinctive musical trio of Turkey in the Straw, Camptown Races and The Entertainer, are now registered trademarks – for ice cream making machines. But it’s not the only sound of the season that is seeking trademark protection, according to Michael Spink, an intellectual property attorney who blogs ( and tweets (@funkymarksblog) about unusual trademarks for motion, sound, color, scent, texture, and shape.

The new Budweiser bowtie can, designed to pay homage to the label’s red bowtie, is another sign of summer that has a recent trademark application pending, along with a “two-toned sound” that is reminiscent of a beer can opening, also pending trademark approval on behalf of Anheuser-Busch.

“The shift to a digital, knowledge-based economy is expanding the universe of what has traditionally been trademarked, such as words, slogans and designs,” said Spink, who is a shareholder in the Ann Arbor office of Chicago-based Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione, one of the nation’s largest intellectual property law firms. “These funky trademarks are the wild west of the marketplace, and companies that recognize such unusual creations as ‘trademarkable’ are ahead of the game in developing brand recognition and protecting their intellectual property assets.”

Spink advises that the strongest trademarks are those that are highly distinctive, such as coined terms (e.g. KODAK or EXXON) and arbitrary designations (APPLE for computers). Exploiting all of the human senses only furthers the ability to create new trademarks that grab and retain consumer’s attention. While some non-traditional marks have been around for many years (think the NBC chime, the shape of the Coca-Cola bottle, or the color brown for delivery services) non-traditional marks are increasingly being adopted in the marketplace. For example, in May, the Barclays Center reportedly circulated a distinct scent through its building during a Brooklyn Nets playoff game.

“While fans had both positive and negative responses, it seems clear the scent left a notable impression. If used consistently, Barclays could claim a scent trademark for arena services or sporting events,” explained Spink.

Even sitting around the campfire this summer has trademark implications. That’s because the square pattern of the famous Hershey chocolate bar is now subject to federal trademark protection, as is the slogan, THE OFFICIAL CHOCOLATE OF S’MORES® (registered trademark of Hershey Chocolate & Confectionery Corporation). Limited only by our senses, the new wave of trademarks may just be anything under the sun.

Brinks Hofer Gilson & LioneBrinks has more than 160 attorneys, scientific advisors and patent agents who specialize in intellectual property, making it one of the largest intellectual property law firms in the U.S. Clients around the world use Brinks to help them identify, protect, manage and enforce their intellectual property. Brinks lawyers provide expertise in all aspects of patent, trademark, unfair competition, trade secret and copyright law. The Brinks team includes lawyers with advanced degrees in all fields of technology and science. Brinks has offices in Ann Arbor, Detroit, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Research Triangle Park, N.C., Salt Lake City and Indianapolis. More information is available at