IP: Nontraditional Trademarks

Recent research indicates that consumer reactions to nontraditional trademarks, such as a product's unique shape, or its distinctive appearance, are exceedingly strong and may create more zealous consumer loyalty than traditional marks, such as brand names and logos, alone. In addition to shape and appearance, nontraditional trademarks provide protection for such attributes as colors, sounds, tactile impressions, and even flavors and scents. Although they are generally more difficult to register and enforce than traditional word and logo trademarks, nontraditional trademarks can help companies protect their products' unique attributes.

By definition, a trademark indicates source and identifies and distinguishes the products of one entity from others' products. This definition allows that any subject matter, perceived by one or more of the five senses, not just words and logos, may serve as a trademark as long as it identifies, distinguishes and indicates source. Many nontraditional trademarks, such as the appearance of an Apple iPod or a Heinz ketchup bottle, the color of a Tiffany's box, or the sound of the Intel chimes or of McDonalds' "I'm lovin' it" jingle, have indeed become instantly recognizable as source identifiers, even without reference to the respective word or logo trademarks.


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Christopher Dolan

Christopher Dolan is a shareholder in Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione’s Chicago office and a member of its Trademark Practice Group. His practice focuses on...

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