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Sound marks: an unfamiliar perspective in the books of Indian trademark history

Safeguarding one's ideas and innovations is one of the major aspect of intellectual property rights act,1999. The act was limited to the protection of logos. letters and words only but after the commencement of a new concept of a non-conventional trademark that is the sound trademark in India, the trade related aspects of intellectual property rights have broadened its aspects. Sound trademarks are considered to be non-conventional as it does not contains the previous conventional marks such as the logos, words, etc.

Importance Of Registering A Sound Mark

A sound mark do recognize and discern a product or the service through audio only but not by the visual means. Sound mark do builds an image of the product or the service in the mind of the listener as helping them to identify it with an ease. Registering a sound mark is really important as it makes the product or the service provided different from that of others, for example- the chirping of the birds or the sound of the foot steps are some very common sound marks and therefore cannot be registered.

By the introduction of sound trademark rules in India in 2017, it has given an aid to the proprietors or the innovators to survive in this era of competitive market, moreover it helps the innovators to come up with more and more business ideas which will eventually help to target more and more consumers.

Registering Of Sound Marks In Different Jurisdictions

Many of the countries like U.S.A, Australia, etc have included 'sound' in the definition of their trademarks laws by making time to time amendments. Although the laws related to trademark in India were silent on the topic as the Indian Trademark act,1999 clearly mentions that a mark to get registered should be capable of 'graphical 'representation'. Thus, with reference to graphical representation Indian has adopted shield mark doctrine.

According to Trademark act,1999, a trademark defined under section 2(zb) as a mark which is capable of being represented graphically and which is different from that of the goods and services of other person. Here under the definition of the mark itself says that a mark may include" device, brand, heading, label, ticket, name, signature, work, letter, numeral, shape of goods, packaging or combination of colors or any such combination"

Earlier that is in traditional time, it was difficult to make sound as a trademark as because technological advancement was not up to the mark but now as we are technologically advanced, the introduction of trademark rules in 2017 that is on 6th march 2017 was possible. Due to the commencement of new rules the trademark registration process was made simplified and moreover the introduction of non-conventional or the sound trademark was made which means the sound can be made registrable.

Sound Branding Process

Sound branding is a complex process which enables consumers to identify the product of a particular brand moreover the consumer by listening the sound can identify that whether the brand is of a food product, electronic devices, etc.

As there new rules were introduced under the Trademark act, 1999,there were some key highlights to it too which were as following:
  1. The people applying for the trademark under the new trademark rules particularly the small enterprises or the start ups were given a sustainable rebate in the official fees to be paid by the government promoting their business.
  2. A rise in the fees to be paid by the applicants can be seen but approximately 50% of rebate is being given to the small scale enterprise and star-ups.
  3. Sound mark under the new rules can be registered in an MP3 format enabling the trademark officials to keep a record with ease.

Requisites Needed To File A Sound Mark

According to Trademark rules of 2017, rule 26(5) says that the applicant filling the application for the sound mark should ensure that the sound must be reproduced in MP3 format only moreover its length must not exceed the limit of 30 seconds of time. The reason for recording the sound in a MP3 format is that it gives a good quality sound which makes it easy for the listener to listen it. Some well known examples of the registered sound marks are:
  • Audi's heart-beat sound logo
  • Mcdonalds sound mark "i'm lovin'it"
  • Nokia and Samsung (switching on device sound)
  • Britannia (four note bell sound)
  • Yahoo (human voice saying hello)
  • Airtel ringtone

In today's competitive environment, the proprietors of the product shall make the make efforts so that their products and services are not recognized visibly but also are audible to the consumers. The new rules in the Trademark act are a tremendous efforts done by the government which will help in the economic development and do encourage more and more star ups and small scale business.


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