April 24, 2014

What Seinfeld's George Costanza Can Teach You About Trademarks

by Guest Blogger

George Costanza was a character on the sitcom Seinfeld who often went to impressive lengths to meet and maintain relationships with women. In "The Chicken Roaster" episode during Season 8, George comes up with two new tactics: (1) the "leave behind"; and (2) a commercial jingle:

The trademark equivalent of George's "Coooo-stan-za" jingle is a sound mark. A sound mark identifies and distinguishes a product or service through audio rather than visual means. Sounds marks may be federally registrable if they are "arbitrary, unique or distinctive and . . . used in a manner so as to attach to the mind of the listener and be awakened on later hearing in a way that would indicate for the listener that a particular product or service was coming from a particular, even if anonymous, source." In re Vertex Grp. LLC, 89 USPQ2d 1694, 1700 (TTAB 2009).

You can hear examples of federally registered sound marks by clicking the following links:

NBC chimes

MGM roaring lion

AT&T chime & "AT&T"

Harlem Globetrotters "Sweet Georgia Brown"

Twentieth Century Fox drums, trumpets, & strings

Twentieth Century Fox D'OH (Homer Simpson character)

Intel chimes

ESPN six musical notes

Yahoo yodel

Pillsbury Doughboy giggle

Time Warner Entertainment Looney Tunes theme song

General Mills HO HO HO (Green Giant character)

America Online's "You've Got Mail"

When choosing a trademark, do not limit yourself to just names, slogans, and logos. Like George Costanza, you can also brand your business by using unique, different, or distinctive sounds. If you decide to adopt a sound mark, however, it pays to have a federal trademark registration in case you ever need to enforce your rights against a competitor.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide online trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.