As unusual trademarks go, scents are some of the rarest, but that hasn’t stopped Hasbro from trademarking the distinctive smell of Play-Doh. Little changed since 1956, when Play-Doh was first created, the scent is one of the most distinctive aspects of the modeling dough experience, its makers argue.
“The scent of Play-Doh compound has always been synonymous with childhood and fun,” Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of Global Marketing for the brand, said of the news. “By officially trademarking the iconic scent, we are able to protect an invaluable point of connection between the brand and fans for years to come.”
According to Hasbro, the protected Play-Doh scent is a complex one. It’s described as “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.”
Scent trademarks are certainly rarer than their logo, name, or slogan counterparts, though this isn’t the first time the United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted approval to a unique smell. Indeed, scents, sounds, and tastes can all theoretically be protected by the Trademark Act. That’s assuming their creators can sufficiently demonstrate that they’re inherently distinctive.
Interestingly, the scents must not be utilitarian in their purpose. For example, the USPTO won’t grant a trademark to, say, the floral smell of an air freshener. Similarly, if the smell is emitted as a natural outcome of the manufacturing process, that too cannot be successfully trademarked.
However there’s also “acquired distinctiveness” to consider. That’s effectively when a particular scent is associated with specific goods, even though there’s no natural connection between the two. Back in mid-2015, for example, Grendene managed to secure the trademark for “Scent of Bubble Gum,” though not for actual bubble gum. Instead, it sought to protect its use of that smell in connection with flip-flops that smelled of the candy.
Verizon, meanwhile, snagged the scent mark for a “flowery musk scent” back in late 2014. It told the USPTO that it intended that smell to be associated with its stores, differentiating them from other wireless phone outlets in the process.
Hasbro therefore joins a fairly exclusive club, with only a handful of active scents currently trademarked. Whether the smell of Play-Doh brings back a flood of memories for you, of course, depends on just how much you played with it during your childhood.