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The China Trademark Office Approved the Registration of the First Sound Trademark Filed by a Foreign Applicant

On August 21st, 2016, the China Trademark Office approved the use of sound trademark “SOFY” on commodities such as sanitary napkins by Unicharm, Co., Ltd, being the first sound trademark registered by a foreign applicant in China. Located in Ehime Prefecture, Japan, and established in 1961, Unicharm’s main business covers baby products such as diapers, feminine hygiene products such as sanitary napkins, pet products and health care products.

After the implementation of the new Trademark Law from May 1st, 2014, the Trademark Office started to receive and examine sound trademarks. According to the Trademark Office, there have been about 400 sound trademark applications in the past two years, with only 3 among them being approved. The first case is the prelude of the broadcasting program by the CCTV. The second one is the “SOFY” by Unicharm and the third one is “Holding high hopes for child-Xiaobawang Learning Machine” by GuangDong YiHua Investment Group CO. Ltd. The first and third cases both relate to sound trademarks filed by domestic applicants.

According to Article 13 of the Implementing Regulations of the Trademark Law, an application for trademark registration for a sound-logo shall include in the petition a corresponding declaration thereof. Meanwhile, the applicant shall submit a sample of the sound accorded with the relevant requirements, and a description of the applied sound trademark to clarify how to use it. The description of the sound trademark shall be in the form of staff or numbered musical notation with attached literal description. Otherwise, the trademark shall be described literally in accordance with the sound sample.

The Implementing Regulations of the Trademark Law, although stipulates the formal requirements for registration of a sound trademark, it lacks of correspondent and explicit stipulation on the material elements such as the distinctiveness and similarity of the sound trademark. The registered three sound trademarks by far are all approved by the Trademark Office at the stage of examination.