Scents win trademark protection

December 04, 1990|By Knight-Ridder

SAN JOSE, CAIF. — SAN JOSE, Calif. -- A California woman is savoring the sweet smell of success after getting the first trademark for a scent -- a landmark ruling that may have makers of everything from Bazooka bubble gum to Old Spice after-shave scrambling to lock up their lucrative aromas.

"I really think nobody had done it before because nobody had done it before," said James Hawes, the Newport Beach, Calif., patent attorney who represented Celia Clarke of Goleta in her fight with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Trademarks -- until now limited to words, symbols, colors or sounds -- legally distinguish one product from others. Trademarks have been registered for the pink color of fiberglass insulation, the sound of the NBC chimes and the pinched shape of the Haig & Haig whiskey bottle.

"Nobody has ever thought that a scent could be a source-designating function," Hawes said. "But you know that if I shoved a cotton ball under your nose and it had the scent of Old Spice cologne, or Bazooka bubble gum or Johnson Baby Oil, you would know immediately what it was. Those are distinctive scents."

Clarke received the trademark for a plumeria-blossom scent that distinguishes the yarn in her embroidery kits depicting flower-sniffing skunks and little lambs.

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