Tactile Trademarks 101

We’ve already covered logo and company name trademarks. We’ve discussed olfactory trademarks. And now I’ll introduce you to tactile trademarks.

Touch can be sold

The most simple and obvious example of a tactile trademark is using braille. Write the company name in braille font and easily register it as a trademark. For example, there is a registered trademark of Stevie Wonder in braille.

You can also register the texture of a good. Just like an olfactory trademark, the texture of a good cannot be functional, it must be its distinguishing feature. For example, if the rough texture of an object helps it from falling, then this texture cannot be registered as a trademark. If, for example, the good is a rough-textured coffee mug and the texture does not aid or improve the coffee-drinking experience, then this unusual texture for a regular item can be registered as a trademark.

It sounds tricky, I know! But I’ll give you a few more real-life, tactile trademark examples to paint a clear picture. Louis Vuitton registered its ubiquitous pattern found on its suitcases and bags. Alcohol manufacturer Diageo Brands registered a crumpled glass texture for a bottle of whiskey. And the David Family Group registered a skin texture which serves as a cover for a bottle of wine.

I’ve given you a few examples, but practically speaking, braille verbal trademarks are more common than registered product textures. Braille trademarks are necessary for the identification of goods by visually impaired consumers and is fairly straightforward. Registering a texture as a trademark is complicated. The most difficult part of registration is describing the texture in detail and being clear about how it feels. How would you describe what crumbled glass feels like?!