Yahoo’s yodel safe and sound in India

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The Delhi branch of India’s Trade Marks Registry has granted Yahoo a “sound mark” to protect its three-note yahoo yodel.

The company’s yodel is also registered as a sound mark with the US Patent Office.

This is the first time a sound mark has been awarded in India. The award will essentially prevent competitors, other companies and individuals from using Yahoo’s signature sound, which has been employed extensively in the company’s television advertisements.

Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia is keen to take second place, having made an application to protect the musical jingle its users hear when turning on their handsets.

However, Nokia’s case was rejected in Hong Kong last year following a decision that “on hearing the subject mark … the relevant consumers would only perceive it as a sound that signals that the goods are in operation but no more,” as reported by the Hong Kong Intellectual Property Department.

Under the Indian Trademarks Act, 1999, protection can usually be offered to marks such as logos, names, acronyms, labels, signatures, brands, letters, packaging, numerals, shapes or a combination of colours, which can be graphically represented.

However, the scope of the act has been broadened through the new trademarks law in 2003 to afford sound protection, as long as it is accompanied by a graphical representation. Yahoo’s yodel was represented using its musical notes.

Pravin Anand, managing partner of Anand and Anand which advised Yahoo on the case, told Livemint.com: “It’s a very healthy development for the country … It’s a great new market. Sound marks have far greater penetration than visuals. It reaches your ears much before the visual aspect or even the product reaches you.”