According to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with America, it has been recognized that marks which are not visually perceptible also help to identify the origin of a product. In light of this, it was decided in a revision of the Korean trademark law in 2011 that it is possible to obtain a trademark right for things that are not visually perceptible, as long as they can be expressed realistically in the form of a code, letters or figures. When filing an application for sound and smell, the characteristics of the smell or sound must be described concretely and accurately with letters or similar. Thus, for sound trademarks a score or a music file is required, for smell trademarks a sample of the smell must be attached for the examination.
Starting March 15, 2012, it is possible to register sound and smell trademarks in Korea.
On the other hand in Japan, traditionally only marks like letters or drawings that “you can see” have been the target of trademark registrations. Thus the patent office started research and is investigating whether characteristic sounds like those of TV commercials that are adapted to a company or product name or moving company logos and marks that you can find on the internet can be registered as trademarks.
In China according to Article 8 of the Chinese Trademark Law, trademarks must be visible; therefore it is still impossible to get a trademark for sound or smell in China.
Furthermore in Taiwan, according to the Taiwanese trademark law you can file an application for combined sounds and obtain trademark rights for them. According to the explanation of the “Examination Standard” of the Intellectual Property Office of Taiwan, “So called Sound trademarks, refer to a sound that lets the consumer distinguish products and services. For example, sounds that are easy to identify like simple and short commercial music, melodies, conversations of people, the sound of a bell or cries of animals.”
The range of trademark protection is increasing in Asia from now as well and we will keep providing you with recent information.