Sound Marks: How Sound is the Requirement for Graphical Representation?

Akshay Ajayakumar and Srinjoy Das

An analysis of sound marks registered at the Indian Trade Marks Registry will show the lack of consensus among the Applicants and the Registry regarding the graphical representation of sound marks. This post will briefly analyse the jurisprudence concerning sound marks in the EU, explain the requirement for sound marks in India, and analyse a few sound mark registrations in India vis-à-vis graphical representation.

What is a sound mark?

Most of us knowingly or unknowingly are aware of sound marks. Everyone has heard the ‘Ting Ting Ti Ting’ of Britannia or the fanfare of MGM. When a sound performs the function of a trademark, it can be categorised as a sound mark. As per the USPTO Trademark Manual of Examining Procedure sounds can function as source indicators when they "assume a definitive shape or arrangement" and "create in the hearer’s mind an association of the sound" with goods or services.