When the China Trademark Law was revised in 2013 it provided for the registration of non-traditional trade marks, including sound marks. Since that time, the China Trademark Office has received more than 450 applications for sound trademarks. Of these, the first registration has recently been recently granted.
This type of mark comprises a sound that is considered sufficiently distinctive to identify the commercial origin of a product or service and to distinguish it from similar products or services of other providers. In contrast to more traditional word, figurative and other visible trade marks, sound marks help consumers distinguish a particular source of product or service through the medium of hearing. Typical sound marks include the widely recognised "I'm lovin' it" jingle of McDonald's Corporation and the roaring lion of MGM Studios.
The law in China specifically prohibits from registration any sound mark that is considered similar to the national anthem, the army song or the Internationale, or anything conveying a "negative social influence". Also, sounds that are devoid of distinctiveness, such as music notations which are too simple or too complicated, are deemed unregistrable. When making an application to register a sound mark the applicant is required to specify the manner of use of the sound mark and submit a sample of the sound in the form of a .wav or .mp3 file not in excess of 5MB.
China's first sound mark registration has been awarded to the 40-second opening tune of China Radio International, which has been widely broadcast on the radio for many years and has become the unique signature of China Radio International.
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