Trademarks can be anything that acts as a “source identifier,” aka it lets consumers know what company produces a product or offers a service.
Trademarks can be nearly anything that allow consumers to know who made a product or who is offering a service. Trademarks can be company names, logos, taglines or even certain smells or colors.
For example, when a shopper is at the grocery store and sees COCA-COLA and PEPSI twelve packs side by side, she knows what company produced those beverages and will choose based on her past experiences with the two competing brands. Similarly, when a family driving on the highway looking for a place for some fast food spots McDonald’s famous golden arches, they know McDonald’s is inviting them to come and enjoy their fast food services.
It is common for company names to also be synonymous for the products or services they offer. For example, Uber is a company name, but also the company’s most valuable trademark.
A recent trademark registration obtained by UBER, which is both their company name and their most valuable trademark.
Companies that seek to stand out in the marketplace often adopt creative logos. Logos allow consumers to see a design or image and know precisely who made a product or is offering a service.
The public knows Apple made a computer by seeing their famous Apple logo on it
Sometime company names and logos can be combined to function as one “unitary” trademark. This helps companies introduce logos into the marketplace before they are well known.
Under Armour is a world famous brand now. But in 1998, when it was two years old, the UA logo was not famous yet, so combining the logo with the name helped teach consumers what the UA logo was.
In addition to companies using their names and logos as trademarks, they also often develop slogans, taglines and jingles that function as trademarks too. For example, whether you are watching TV or not during a commercial break, if you hear the phrase JUST DO IT, you likely know it was a Nike commercial that just aired.
Nike has used the JUST DO IT slogan in many of its campaigns since it first adopted it in the 1980s
In addition to traditional trademarks such as company names, logos, and slogans, some creative companies and brands have also used smells, colors and sound as trademarks. In other words, consumers know the source of a product by the smell, color or sound alone. What does that mean? Let’s check out some examples.
Smell - close your eyes for a second and think about the smell of the Play-Doh you used as a kid (or when your kids played with it more recently. You can almost smell that “scent of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, combined with the smell of a salted, wheat-based dough.” Hasbro, the current owner of Play-Doh applied for and received a trademark registration for the scent of Play-Doh based on the description above.
Trademark registration certificate for the Play-Doh scent trademark
Color - nearly every has seen pink insulation at one point or another during their life, whether when tearing down a wall in their home or searching for a toy in their grandparents attic. But do you know the color pink for insulation is a trademark owned by Owens Corning? In other words, no other company can use the color pink on insulation or they would be infringing Owens Corning’s trademark rights.
Specimen for Owens Corning's most recent renewal for the color pink in connection with insulation
Sound - sometimes a sequence of sounds is so closely associated with a product or service that companies can obtain a trademark registration for a sound. The basic requirement is, if the average consumer were to hear the sound, would they assume it was being played by a certain company. Can you think of any sounds like that? One famous trademark registration for sound marks are the NBC Chimes.
Do you have any questions about trademarks or are curious about more trademark examples. Do not hesitate to contact us for a Free Trademark Consultation today and we will get back to you as soon as possible.