Sound and Smell Trademarks

When most people think of trademarks, they think of words like Coke® or logos like the Nike® swoosh but trademarks can be anything that tells you where a product or service came from, like the shape of a bottle or building, or a sound or smell.

We can track the rise of sound and smell trademarks because they are filed under “Mark Drawing Code 6” for “situations for which no drawing is possible.” The first application under Mark Drawing Code 6 was filed in 1947. Here’s how the trademark is described:

The mark comprises the musical notes G, E, C, played on chimes.

Can you figure out what this very familiar trademark is just from the description? If not, try singing or whistling it or you can just check out the answer below.

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There were only two applications for sound and smell trademarks filed in the 1940s.

There was a total of twenty filed from 1950 through 1989, then things really took off.

So far in the 2010s, there have been 308 applications filed for “situations for which no drawing is possible.”

You are immersed in these sounds all day. Can you identify these familiar sound marks? (Answers are below.)


How many could you guess? How many others can you think of?



The musical notes played on chimes is the NBC trademark.

The other sound marks are:

  • An Apple® computer booting up.
  • The THX® sound system for theaters.
  • The Pillsbury® Doughboy® giggling.
  • The Tarzan yell.

No Drawing is Possible

There are over 234 U.S. trademark registrations for “situations for which no drawing is possible” which means just what it says.

Of those, 219 are for sound marks: Mostly human voices singing and speaking and musical instruments, but there are also gongs, buzzes, beeps, big cats growling, little cats meowing, insects chirping, and ducks quacking. Here are the written descriptions of two of my favorite sound marks. Can you guess what they are? (Answers below.[1]):

  1. “Rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator”
  2. “A crescendo beginning with a snapping sound followed by a hiss sound”

The next biggest category (13 registrations) is for scent marks. Here are some cool ones:[2]

  • A scent of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, combined with the smell of a salted, wheat-based dough (Play-Doh®)
  • Flower musk scent for retail phone sales.
  • Chocolate scent for retail jewelry sales.
  • Bubble gum scent for shoes.
  • Piña colada scent for ukuleles.

Right now there’s only one visual trademark that falls into the “no drawing possible” category:[3] “A pre-programmed rotating sequence of . . . columns of light projected into the sky” for search lights.


But the one that really wows me is a touch trademark: A “leather texture wrapping around the middle surface of a bottle of wine” for The David Family Group wine. That’s an amazing way to stand out from the crowd.

Novelty is incredibly important in the world of trademarks. In what unique way can you promote your business?




[1] Here’s what the sound marks are:

  1.   That’s Darth Vader® breathing. The trademark is for toys and costumes.
  2.  That’s the sound of a lightsaber®. The trademark is for a bunch of stuff, including toys.

[2] Here are the rest of the scent marks:

  • Coconut scent for retail sales of beachwear and goods.
  • “High impact fragrance primarily consisting of musk, vanilla, rose, and lavender” for hair care products
  • Rose oil scent for advertising or marketing services.
  • Strawberry scent for toothbrushes.
  • Grape, strawberry and cherry scents for motor lubricants.
  • “Minty scent by mixture of highly concentrated methyl salicylate (10wt%) and menthol (3wt%)” for medicated transdermal patches.

[3] There are other non-traditional trademark where the applicant was able to create a drawing.

  • Amazon’s light sequence on Alexa.
  • Bad Robot production credit sequence.
  • Samsung’s colored light sequence.
  • Fee intake lights on USA Technologies vending machines.
  • Sequence of lights on Zenith vacuum cleaners.


Images of David Family Wines used with permission of The David Family Group LLC.