Can you trade mark a sound?

Written by Mark Eiffe | February 24, 2023

Trade Marks

I learned yesterday that a man by the name of Tohru Okada, died on the 14th February. I had not heard of him before but if you’re a fan of video games, or you have owned any of the Playstation consoles since 1994, you’ll recognise the iconic ‘zing’ when you switch the device on, which Okada-san composed.

This led me to think of other iconic sounds. Not music, or jingles per se, but sounds that bear the characteristics of a trade mark, i.e.  they are a ‘sign which is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of one undertaking from those of other undertakings and is capable of being represented on the register’. And if a sound can be represented by musical notation, then it’s capable of being recorded on the register.

Sounds are one of the ‘non-traditional’ trade mark formats, but they do exist. They are an acoustic equivalent of a visual logo for a brand. Think of the Intel Inside ‘bong’ – a mere five note logo, or the MGM ‘Lion Roar’ or the McDonald’s ‘whistle’. These are all registered trade marks and they do bring to mind the brand that they are representing, even without the visual accompaniment.

It’ not always just your logo, slogan or your company name that is capable of distinguishing your company. Sometimes a full audit of your intellectual property by experienced solicitors can unearth trade marks that you might not have realised that you had.

If you have any questions in relation to your brand at any stage of your product’s life cycle, contact us at

Written by Mark Eiffe – Solicitor

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