Shapes, animations and sounds: Trade marks for the future of marketing
In a crowded marketplace, businesses are changing the way they showcase their products and services. Mobile applications, animations, innovative packaging and audio displays are now part of a typical interaction with consumers.
Can these creative marketing assets be protected under Singapore's trade mark law? Read on to find out.
Different user interfaces
Taking your business online does not just refer to having a website. With more than half of the global web traffic taking place over mobile devices, many businesses have separate user interfaces for desktop and mobile browsing.
Generally, trade marks that are in use would be adapted to accommodate a mobile device's smaller screen. For example, designs and words could be combined into one composite trade mark, while logos may be simplified for use as an icon. Customised trade marks could also be developed for use on intermediary platforms such as e-commerce sites or Instagram.
Is one trade mark registration sufficient? Depending on how the trade marks are used on each user interface, multiple applications may be required. In some cases, each representation of the logo may warrant registration to avoid gaps in enforcement against copycats.
Digital platforms also offer the versatility of using dynamic or animated logos in marketing. These could be as simple as a change in shape and colour as a user scrolls down the page, or something as complex as an interactive Google doodle. Animations like these could potentially be protected as moving or motion trade marks in Singapore, through an application for a chronological sequence of images.
Image from Doodles Archive (https://www.google.com/doodles#archive)
To enhance the sensory effect, animations are also often accompanied by sounds, which consumers can grow to associate with a business. Any regular Netflix user, for instance, should be able to easily picture the animated "N" logo and a distinctive "ba-dum" sound when starting the app. These tunes, jingles and sounds can be protected under Singapore's trade mark law as sound marks.
For any business, packaging does much more than cover the goods being sold. Innovative packaging can attract consumers' attention, increase brand recognition and even reflect a business' ethos and values.
Such functions are especially significant for online businesses, as consumers do not have the experience of engaging with a physical store and its products. Instead, opening up a delivery is the first tangible interaction that a consumer has when online shopping. It is a great sign when consumers cannot bear to throw away well-made packaging!
Unique, hoard-worthy packaging can actually be protected under Singapore's trade mark law as an aspect of packaging or a shape mark. This is dependent on how the packaging has been integrated with the product.
For example, Nissin registered a wrapper attached to the external surface of its product as an "aspect of packaging".
In comparison, Nutella’s packaging was registered as a 3D shape mark that includes the shape of the bottle, as well as the images applied on it.
In a situation where the packaging features a very prominent and distinctive combination of colours, applying for registration of a colour mark may also be useful. For example, Ayam has registered a red-and-yellow colour mark in Singapore that reflects the iconic colours of its sardines packaging.
Ayam's colour mark (left) and Ayam's packaging (right)
Trade mark law is evolving alongside the growth of technology and marketing techniques. No longer are trade marks reserved only for a name or logo. As a business develops new and imaginative solutions, it becomes important for them to protect their investments early and not as an afterthought.
Esther Seow | Principal | Davies Collison Cave
Qualified in Singapore, Malaysia and the United Kingdom, Esther has been involved in a wide range of intellectual property matters. She has assisted businesses of all sizes and industries in developing intellectual property strategies to support their commercial needs. This includes working with start-ups and smaller businesses to establish the groundwork for protecting and monetising their brands. Esther has also been highlighted as a recommended expert by World Trademark Review.
Benita Lau | Trade Mark Associate | Davies Collison Cave
Benita supports businesses in building their brands by identifying potential risks and opportunities for growth. On the enforcement side, she helps brand owners defend their rights in contentious trade mark proceedings, as well as explore cost-effective alternatives for resolution. In 2019, Benita was noted by The Legal 500 in the intellectual property category.