First Registration of a Trademark Consisting of Only Sound Elements in Japan

The first trademark consisting of only sound elements without any verbal elements such as words or lyrics was registered in Japan on September 26, 2017.

Since the Japanese trademark act was revised in 2015, new types of trademarks such as sound, movement, holograms and color marks without delineated contours are now eligible to apply for registration in Japan, and to date about 1,600 of these types of applications have been filed, and more than 300 marks have been registered.

Prior to this registration, the JPO had been acting cautiously and had only issued allowances for applications which included verbal elements, such as in the case of “Hisamitsu” as lyrics, or “oh~i , ocha” which is the same as the word mark.

In the case of this registration, the sound mark consisting of a melody without lyrics was approved as a trademark. The application process for Taiko-Pharmaceutical, the mark’s owner, took about two and a half years before they were able to obtain registration of a bugle melody for “Seirogan [a medicine for the stomach and intestines]”, because proving that a general consumer could identify the particular products of the particular origin by hearing only the melody was difficult.

Two other sound marks in addition to this sound mark were also recently approved. These other marks are for the melody heard when Intel’s logo shows up in their advertisements, and also the melody heard when BMW’s logo shows up in BMW’s advertisements.