Trademark Protection for Smell Marks

In the modern business world, companies are always looking for new ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors by developing goods that have some kind of uniqueness built into them. Creating items with distinctive qualities, such as a recognisable odour or sound that is unique to the product and the brand, may be one way to do this. Other methods exist as well. In general, businesses make an effort to develop items that emit a particular odour, taste, colour, or sound in order to pique the interest of customers' physiological senses.

What is the Meaning of Smell Trademarks?

One of the most fundamental aspects of the human experience is ability to smell and differentiate between different smells. As a consequence of this, a number of different corporations have sought to make items that are imbued with a certain odour that is unique to the brand. Smell has the ability to elicit a response from a person and has a direct influence on the likelihood of a customer buying the goods. This suggests that a customer is more likely to purchase a product if it piques their interest in one of their senses.

The incorporation of such characteristics into goods and services has led to the development of a distinct category of trademarks known as "non-conventional trademarks." Smell trademarks are a form of non-conventional trademark in which the aroma of a specific product (which is regarded as a distinguishing feature of that product) is legally registered as a trademark.

This type of trademark is not as common as other types of trademarks. At this time, a great number of corporations have recognised smells that are embedded in a certain product as a distinguishable and distinctive quality of their product. Some of the most well-known examples of smell marks include Manhattan Oil's "Fuel Fragrances," which have the aroma of strawberries, cherries, and grapes; the smell of Hasbro's Play-Doh clay; the rose-scented Sumimoto tyres; the flowery musk scents that are regularly sprayed at Verizon stores; Grendene's bubble gum-scented jelly sandals; and Lactona's strawberry-scented toothbrushes.

Laws Governing Odour Trademarks All Around the World

Perspectives on odour marking in both the United Kingdom and the United States

Although the registration of scent markings has been made legal in a number of nations, the rules that govern the registration of smell marks remain, for the most part, undeveloped. The Lanham Act may be used as a legal foundation for registering scent marks in the United States. Despite the fact that the Lanham Act does not specifically address olfactory markings, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) acknowledges that smells may serve as identifiers and are a distinguishing feature of a particular brand or product.

As a result, rulings made by courts and the United States Patent and Trademark Office have repeatedly allowed the registration of scent marks. OSEWEZ's application for a smell mark called "plumeria flower scented thread" was one of the first smell markings to be registered. The most current iteration of the EU Trademark regulation, which took effect in 2019, provided clarification that the graphical representation of trademarks would not be required for the purposes of application. This suggests that smell trademarks may be registered so long as the mark can be represented in a way that would infer that the mark represented is unique and is capable of being protected, provided that such a representation is possible.

The legal framework governing trademarks has seen the development of unorthodox types of trademarks, such as those based on sound, smell, and taste. Odor markings are far less frequent to locate than sound marks, such as the familiar jingle that is associated with the Nokia brand.

To summarise, the requirements for the graphical representation of a trademark in the United States and the United Kingdom are not as stringent as those in other countries.

Brief History of Smell/Scent Trademark

In point of fact, Sumitomo Rubber filed scent marks in the United Kingdom for a flowery aroma or smell similar to that of roses, which was applied to automobile tyres. After a challenge before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the first scent trademark in the United States was finally granted registration in the year 1990. The trademark was for a high-impact, fresh and flowery smell that was evocative of plumeria blooms. This fragrance was used in combination with embroidery thread and sewing thread.

Since then, there has been a decline in the number of people who register smells as trademarks. In addition to that, it has the aroma of bubble gum for strawberry, cherry, and grape lubricants that are used in combustion engines. The primary reason for this is because their definitions are arbitrary, and as a result, they are accessible to a variety of different interpretations. Arguments are made that subjective opinions are insufficient for deciding whether the mark (smell) operates as a trademark because of the complexities that result from human perceptions of scents. In addition, these markings are among the most challenging sorts to depict visually due to their complexity.

Application of Smell Marks on an International Scale

In the now-famous case of Ralf Sieckmann vs. the German Patent and Markenamt, the concept of scent markings and the application of such marks acquired notoriety. This decision, which was handed down by the European Court of Justice, is being hailed as a watershed since it is predicated on the need that non-traditional trademarks have graphical representations.

In this particular instance, the applicant requested a perfume known as "methyl cinnamate," describing it as "balsamic fruity with a tiny tinge of cinnamon." The issue that needed to be answered was whether or not this description may be considered a pictorial depiction of the odour that has to be trademarked. Something that is described as being balsamic is said to be done balsamically.

According to the ruling of the European Court of Justice, a description of this sort alone cannot be considered a graphical depiction of the data. It was also determined that a written description of the fragrance, a physical sample of the perfume, or a chemical formula expressing the scent do not constitute its graphical depiction. This particular legal precedent is a typical example that illustrates the difficulties of scent markings and the registration of them.

Sumitomo Rubber was the company that successfully registered the first scent mark in the United Kingdom. Rose, with its heady, flowery scent, was infused into its tyres. In the same vein, a number of further registrations were completed in the United States.

Instances of the Registration of Odor Marks

There have been occasions where similar marks have been registered in a foreign country. In the case of the United Kingdom, for instance, a tyre firm called Sumitomo Rubber has filed for a rose scent to be used in automobile tyres. In the previous section of this essay, we covered this topic.

A further firm registered darts that were designed to have the aroma of sour beer. One other example of this would be a Dutch firm that manufactures tennis balls that have the aroma of newly cut grass. Marks such as this might potentially be recognised in nations that place less importance on the graphical display of information.


Non-traditional forms of a trademark include olfactory, gustatory, and gustatory markings respectively. These are not commonly acknowledged throughout the international community, but there is still some debate over them. The reason for this is because it is very complicated, and there are not enough appropriate regulations in place to adequately deal with it.

According to the information presented in the article, countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and other nations are now using and accepting non-traditional trademarks. The application of the same principle to the rest of the globe is still in the early stages of development.


Q1. What is smell trademarks?

Ans. A trademark is a distinguishing indication that distinguishes certain products or services as those that are produced or delivered by a particular individual or business. Therefore, it is evident that a sign in order to serve as an indication of the desired item or service must be unique in order to identify it as belonging to a certain person or organisation. This can be inferred from the definition. Although in most cases, these signs take the form of letters or symbols that are arranged in a particular pattern, a trademark can also be a non-conventional one in the quiet, "non-visual" sense that it could also include a shape, sound, or smell in addition to those things as well. In general, these signs take the form of letters or symbols that are arranged in a specific pattern.

Q2. What are the challenges in registering smell marks as trademark?

Ans. Functionality theory is a major challenge to scent mark registration. Accordingly, trademark law does not cover product functions. Any legal trademark registration, such as smell marks, guarantees its exclusive use for an infinite length of time in the commercial realm. The functionality theory prevents an entity from monopolising a product feature that is fundamental to a competitor's product line. This concept encourages healthy competition. Scent markings complicate this notion. It raises questions about the doctrine's substance and repercussions.

Updated on: 14-Feb-2023


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