Igniting Innovation: Tips, Sparks and Ideas for Acting on Innovation

3 Things You just might not know you can Trademark

Posted by David Lafkas on Sep 15, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Striving for Meaningfully Uniqueness is a foundation of Innovation.  And most often Meaningfully Uniqueness is equated with the standards of patentability.

But what about portions of your innovation that perhaps cannot be patented?  What about Meaningfully Uniqueness in your marketing and branding? 

As a leader, set an example and allow your employees to break beyond the traditional branding and think if meaningfully unique ways to differentiate your products and services with your customers.

Most often when it comes to branding and trademarking, the focus is on the name or logo of the product or service.  Even color, the famous example innovation and the 4 sensesbeing Owens-Corning’s pink color for insulation, is protectable.  In other words, the focus is primarily on the visual sense.  However, there are at least four more senses you can focus on in making your branding effective and protected.

1. Auditory

The US Patent and Trademark Office has a long history of protecting sounds for products and services, including:

Homer Simpson’s “D’oh”
- protected for entertainment services
AAMCO - protected for auto repair services
Five Chirps - software for notifying consumers of live weather conditions

2. Scent &Taste

There have been numerous attempts to recently to protect scents or tastes of products.  One example was peppermint for a particular pharmaceutical, and a particular flavor of pizza.  As you can imagine, these failed for two big reasons. 

In particular, they failed for the same reason that some more traditional trademarks fail.  Trademarks must be able to:

i)  Serve as a source identifier - the consumer recognizes where the product or service comes from based on the trademark; and

 ii) The trademark is distinctive. 

 And often trademark applications fail for not meeting both of those standards.  Arguable, scent and taste can serve as a source identifier and be distinctive to consumers.  One successful attempt was with “Plumeria scent” for sewing thread was registered in 1990.

3. Touch

The touch, or feel or tactile elements, of a product can be distinctive.  One company protected the “velvet textured covering on the surface of a bottle of wine” in US Registration No. 3155702. 

I hope these things above sparked some ideas for new trademarks. Be sure the trademark you’re pursuing matches the what makes the brand meaningfully unique, or else customers won’t care.  Some final thoughts for you to consider…

How can you enable your employees and colleagues to make your protected branding

i)  more meaningfully unique (and match the meaningfully uniqueness of your innovation); AND

ii)  something that encourages your consumers to spend money on your products and services?

Learn More about Trademarks

Topics: innovation, trademarks

David Lafkas

Written by David Lafkas

David is Eureka! Ranch’s legal eagle, or more traditionally our patent and trademark authority, not only serving as in-house counsel at Eureka! Ranch, but also evangelizing on the importance of patents in today’s world of innovation to stay ahead of your competition. As an Innovation Engineering Black Belt, David has helped numerous companies develop patentable new products and services. Most recently, he’s supported High Liner Foods in Canada and the US on their comprehensive journey to achieve a culture of innovation as they not only create breakthrough seafood ideas, but also broadly educate employees and implement systems driven innovation across the corporation. David received a biomedical engineering degree from the Rose Hulman Institute of Technology and his juris doctorate from the University of Cincinnati College of Law, the 4th oldest law school in the country. He lives in Cincinnati with his rescue dog, Chauncey.

Welcome to the first blog from the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute team.  Here you will find a diverse group of innovators dedicated to changing the world by transforming innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.


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