Shaken, not stirred

8 March 2022 – Silvie Wertwijn, Annelies van Zoest, Micheline Don

A brand distinguishes products and services from those of competitors. When you think of a brand, you usually think of a word or logo, or a combination thereof, and sometimes a shape. Yet, there are more options. In America, toy company Hasbro has even registered the smell of its clay as a trademark. We have not reached this point in Europe yet. However, for a few years now, more and more unusual trademarks have been registered in Europe, such as colours, sounds, holograms, patterns, films and multimedia. These kinds of unusual trademarks are not easily accepted. Mostly, because they are not distinctive enough or because it is difficult to describe the trademark properly in the register.

But…. recently a special European trademark has been registered: part from the music theme of James Bond. Initially, the European Trademark Register EUIPO found that the music fragment was too long (25 seconds) and too complex to be a trademark; the public would not perceive the tune as a trademark. On appeal, however, James got his way; the fragment is distinctive and can indicate the origin of the products offered under it.

In principle, the same requirements apply to all types of trademarks, but whether the public sees such an unusual element as a trademark may differ from sector to sector. We are all used to words and logos as trademarks, but we are much less used to patterns or sounds. In radio- and TV shows, recognisable tunes are commonplace, so in that field a jingle will be seen as a trademark more quickly.

In any case, the notes of James Bond are sufficiently distinctive and original, the audience can easily remember them and thus consider them as a brand. It even helps that the tune is a bit longer, because if it were very short or simple, it would be less distinctive. For this reason, for example, the very short (but well-known) tune of Netflix was refused as a trademark.

The new sound mark helps the long-term exploitation of James Bond, as the copyright on the music theme expires 70 years after the creator’s death, but the trademark right can be extended over and over. Rightly so No Time to Die….

Silvie Wertwijn


Annelies van Zoest


Micheline Don