The Benefits of Sound Trademarks

A sound trademark allows a person to protect their audible intellectual property. If you have created a song, audible tagline, soundbite, or another sound that you are using in the stream of commerce as a business owner, you should consider obtaining an official trademark to protect your intellectual property from infringement by others.

What Is a Sound Trademark?

According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a trademark is anything that identifies goods or services used in the stream of commerce. This can be a word, symbol, design, phrase, or piece of audible content. Also known as an audio logo or sound logo, a sound trademark is a trademark relating directly to a sound. Therefore, if a sound “identifies your goods or services,” you may be able to trademark it.

What Is the Purpose of a Sound Trademark?

A trademark is, first and foremost, a form of legal protection. By trademarking a sound, you have the legal right to do the following: 

  • Make clear that you are the party who conceived, or who owns, a specific sound
  • Ensure that no other party can use your sound for their own gain
  • Ensure that you are the only party who may profit from the sound
  • Make a clear connection between the sound and any business related to that sound 

The USPTO explains that there are limits on sound trademarks. While you may not own the specific words used in a sound or jingle, you may have exclusive rights to the specific manner in which you use that sound or jingle. 

These legal matters can be confusing and legally complex. If you are interested in learning more information about your own sound trademark or sound trademarks in general, you can speak with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property law at Amini & Conant.

What Kinds of Sounds Can You Trademark?

If you have heard a sound used in the stream of commerce or by an artist or business, it is firmly possible that it is trademarkable (or likely trademarked already). Some sounds that have been trademarked include

  • Theme songs for television shows and movies
  • Specific lines and phrases from television shows, movies, and music
  • Specific musical sequences 
  • Brand taglines
  • Animal noises that are associated with specific brands.

Obviously, you can only trademark an audible sound. The landscape of sound trademarks is vast, from single notes and tones to entire auditory pieces like a song. From Paris Hilton saying “that’s hot” to the sound of flicking a lighter, you may be surprised at the sound trademarks currently protected with legal trademarks. 

Who Can Apply for a Sound Trademark?

Anyone with an original sound used in the business or for-profit that they want to protect may apply for a sound trademark. This may include:

  • Directors
  • Musicians
  • Showrunners
  • Advertisers
  • Brands
  • Bloggers
  • Business owners
  • Any other party with a sound that they want to define as their own

How Do I Know If a Sound Is Already Trademarked?

The USPTO provides a database of trademarks that have intellectual property protection and are in the process of obtaining intellectual property protection. The Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) allows you to search both pending and registered sound trademarks.

You may not find this database to be intuitive. You may not know what terms to search for. Even if you learn to use the database, you may want to be absolutely certain that a sound trademark does not exist before you pursue a trademark of your own. Visiting with an experienced intellectual property attorney at Amini & Conant can be helpful if you seek a sound trademark of any kind.

I Want to Trademark a Sound. Where Should I Start?

Once you decide you want to pursue a sound trademark, you might ask: What are the next steps? Before you begin the trademarking process, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is a trademark suitable for this sound?
  • Is this sound already the subject of a trademark?
  • Even if this sound is not trademarked, is it eligible for trademarking?
  • Are the potential benefits of trademarking this sound worth the effort and cost of the trademark application?

Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me Trademark a Sound?

You may choose to hire a lawyer because:

  • Trademark laws and practices can be very complicated and are subject to change
  • The landscape of pending, final, and expiring trademarks is vast and may be difficult for you to understand on your own
  • You do not have much time to dedicate to the extensive trademarking process
  • You are unfamiliar with the trademarking process, and having a lawyer’s help will ensure you have the legal answers you need to make the right decision for you

Securing a sound trademark is not an easy process. The preliminary research alone can be time-consuming, legally complex, and confusing. Completing a successful trademark application can provide great rewards but will require substantial effort. Having a legal advisor for this process could be your right decision.


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