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Play-Doh’s trademark registration passes the smell test

15 September 2018

From Likelihood of Confusion:

There is no shortage of controversy in the trademark and branding communities regarding the evolution of how the public, the courts and businesses understand the function of trademarks and brands.

As a result of ready public access to the trademark registration system, poor public education about the role of registration in the trademark scheme, and increasing financial incentives to capture the value of “brand equity,” trademark law is no longer the poor cousin of patents it was viewed as a generation ago.

Today, trademarks are red hot — and what is hot expands.

. . . .

Trademark rights are claimed and licensing tribute paid for the right to depict things like public images of famous buildings, municipal police insignia and anything else people recognize and want to make a part of their fashion or sport lives.

. . . .

Nontraditional trademarks are sensory experiences that project brand identity in ways that transcend the traditional trademark paradigms of language (words and phrases) and graphic design (stylized ways of presenting words, logos and pictures).

. . . .

And in May of this year Hasbro, the leading toy maker, succeeded in registering as a U.S. trademark the very smell of childhood fun itself: the aroma of one of its most iconic products, Play-Doh.

. . . .

The legitimacy of this development is demonstrated by the fact that very few people who grew up in America after Play-Doh was introduced to the market in 1956 have any difficulty remembering what Play-Doh smells like, or at least remembering that it has a very distinct and not unpleasant aroma

. . . .

What, after all, is a trademark but a sensory signal that connects goods or services with where they come from or, at least, who has approved them?

Link to the rest at Likelihood of Confusion

Copyright/Intellectual Property

3 Comments to “Play-Doh’s trademark registration passes the smell test”

  1. Just reading this post brings the smell back. Olfactory memories are among the strongest we have.

  2. Interesting. Harley-Davidson tried to trademark the sound of their engine, but ultimately failed. I wonder why/how Hasbro/Play-Doh succeeded where HD failed? I mean, even I can tell a Harley from a Japanese crotch rocket long before I ever see them, and I am about as far away from being a motorcycle guy as is possible.

    Too bad “New Book Smell” is too wide-spread to apply to any one entity.(I hope.)

    • Maybe Harley should’ve hired a few accoustic engineers to assist their lawyers? 😉

      Voice and analysis is accepted in many legal cases and it shouldn’t be hard to demonstrate the uniqueness of their waveforms.

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