If you binge watch Netflix like I do, you know the "da dum" sound that plays when the Netflix title screen appears. Apparently, in musical terms, that is a sound "comprising [of] two sixteenth note timpani strikes on D2 and D3, simultaneously which with are played three dotted half notes on D2, D4, and D5" and Netflix just filed a federal trademark application to protect it.
For those of you who are not familiar with the sound, the video above is the specimen Netflix submitted with its trademark application.
Just like names and logos, sounds are also capable of serving as trademarks if they identify the source of a good or service. Sound marks "function as source identifiers when they 'assume a definitive shape or arrangement' and 'create in the hearer's mind an association of the sound' with a good or service." See TMEP 1202.15; In re Gen. Electric Broad. Co., 199 USPQ 560, 563 (TTAB 1978). Sounds can generally be registered as trademarks when they are arbitrary, unique, or distinctive. However, commonplace sounds or sounds goods make in their normal course of operation (like alarm clocks, telephones, etc.) cannot be registered unless they acquire distinctiveness in the marketplace.
In this case, Netflix is seeking protection of the sound above as it relates to entertainment and streaming services in both Class 038 and Class 041. According to the trademark application, Netflix first started using this sound in commerce on February 27, 2015.
If this application matures to a registration, Netflix will obtain the exclusive, nationwide right to use this sound in conjunction with the services listed in its trademark application.
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