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Porsche fails to get European-wide trade mark for its engine sound

Taken from | Author: Ben Zachariah | Date: 18 September 2023

Car manufacturers have gone to great lengths to create artificial sounds for accelerating electric cars – even commissioning film composers – but Porsche's latest efforts have been deemed too unmemorable by authorities to be trade marked.

German sports-car company Porsche is currently appealing a decision by European trade mark authorities to reject a sound designed to replace the near-silence of an electric vehicle accelerating.

Porsche submitted the sound as a trade mark in November 2022 – a noise which could be interpreted as something akin to a vacuum cleaner or a VHS tape being rewound – with car-makers required to ensure vision-impaired pedestrians can identify approaching vehicles.

However, the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) refused the trade mark application due to its lack of distinctiveness, claiming the sequence was unmemorable.

Authorities also claimed it reproduced the sound of a more traditional internal-combustion engine (such as a petrol or diesel engine), which it says isn't recognisable enough to be identified as a Porsche.

According to official documents obtained by Drive, Porsche initially appealed the decision, arguing the sound was artificially created and was not derived from an engine – often developed by film composers and musicians.

BMW famously had Academy Award-winner Hans Zimmer create a fake acceleration sound for its electric cars.

Porsche also argued the simplicity of the noise from Lightsabers in Star Wars films and KITT's scanner from the Knight Rider television show did not make them any less memorable, while also citing a similar approved trade mark from rival BMW for an electric-car sound.

"According to the Office, it is a sound that, although not realistic, imitates the sound of an internal-combustion engine accelerating until it reaches the desired speed," the trade mark authority wrote.

"However, the fundamental issue is not so much whether the consumer will perceive the sound of an engine or not, but whether that sound will enable the relevant public to distinguish [Porsche's vehicles] from those of other suppliers," it said in a translated document.

"Since the tone mark does not contain any striking or memorable elements, the relevant consumer is not able to recognise this exact tone sequence and assign it to a specific provider."

EUIPO rejected the application, but it's understood Porsche has launched an appeal.

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