Darth Vader's Breath
A character as popular as Darth Vader can easily be recognized by attributes that go beyond his name or appearance. That's why Lucasfilm went as far as registering the famous under-the-helmet inhale and exhale sound with the USPTO back in 2008 in two classes: Class 25 for costume masks, toys, and action figures, and Class 28 for Halloween costumes. The sound was originally created by breathing through a scuba regulator. This registration means that knockoff Star Wars toy companies legally cannot use the iconic breathing sound in their products.
While the Eiffel tower itself is part of the public domain and the pictures of it can be freely used without obtaining any special rights, its lighting display is a separate work of art that is protected by copyright. Because of that, in order to lawfully publish an image of the Eiffel Tower at night, with its lights on, one must request and attain permission from the Eiffel Tower's operating company, the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel. Other French landmarks or buildings under French ownership are subject to similar copyright restrictions.
In 2018, Hasbro, the internationally renowned toy company, was granted trademark rights by the USPTO to the very particular smell of Play-Doh. Hasbro formally describes the smell of their product as a unique scent formed through the combination of a sweet, slightly musky, vanilla-like fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, and the natural smell of a salted, wheat-based dough." Since the PLAY-DOH brand's inception in 1956, the distinctive smell has consistently served as a hallmark of the brand, and after more than six decades of providing children with a source of imaginative and creative play, the scent has become increasingly recognizable amongst its consumers.
Coca-Cola originally developed its famous fluted bottle design in the U.S. in 1915 to distinguish its bottle from competitors making similar bottles. The continuous use of the unique distinction and recognition led to this bottle being registered as a trademark in the US in 1960. Thanks to Coca-Cola’s marketing efforts this shape has now become an essential part of Coca-Cola’s brand and is associated with the company on an international level. Later, Coca-Cola applied for its plastic and metallic bottle design to be trademarked across the European Union, arguing that the shape in question is a natural evolution of the iconic bottles its drinks are known by, which was met with more opposition due to lack of significant distinctive features.
The Swiss chocolate, whose shape is based on the triangular shape of the Matterhorn peak, is protected by a 3D trademark in the area of confectionery and is known for its shape being a long bar with a series of joined triangles (peaks). The packaging of Toblerone clearly outlines the shape of the chocolate inside, which allows consumers to automatically recognize the exterior branding as belonging to Toblerone, but more importantly, the shape of the packaging results in it being immediately recognizable as pertaining to that particular brand.
Tiffany & Co
Since 1998, Tiffany Blue has been registered as a colour trademark by Tiffany and, in 2001, was standardized as a custom colour created by Pantone exclusively for Tiffany and not publicly available. Tiffany has exclusive rights to use its blue in connection to what people know it for jewellery, and, even more specifically, jewellery boxes. The ownership of trademark rights for specific colours allows Tiffany & Co to settle cases when they can be confused with its brand usage.
American brand Zippo has been granted rights to a sound trademark of its iconic windproof lighter in 2019. Registered first in the United States, with other markets set to follow, the trademark has been awarded in recognition of Zippo's careful manufacturing process, which produces the highly distinctive sound. Having infiltrated pop culture for over eight decades, appearing in numerous movies and countless music videos, and being held high at festivals and concerts, the Zippo lighter has acquired a special place in the minds of its consumers, and the sound has become synonymous with its brand.