Trademarks definition questioned

PUBLISHED : Monday, 27 November, 1995, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 27 November, 1995, 12:00am

LEGISLATORS have expressed concern over a proposed law allowing floral fragrances or sounds, such as the roar of a motorbike, to be registered as trademarks.

They are questioning whether officials have gone too far in amending intellectual property laws to bring them in line with World Trade Organisation requirements.

In making the changes, the Government has defined trademarks so that the way has been opened for sounds and smells as well as the shapes of objects to be registered to prevent unauthorised copying.

Trademarks are usually the names and symbols associated with a product but recent law changes in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and India have broadened the definition of the term.

Musical chimes, the ring of the Liberty Bell, and the roar of the MGM lion have been cited by the Government as examples of sounds which have been registered as trademarks overseas.

An attempt by Harley Davidson to register the distinctive sound of its motorcycles in the United States has shown trademarks can be controversial: nine competitors are contesting it.

The antique engine design produces an 'off-beat rumble that people tend to fall in love with', Hong Kong Harley Owners Group secretary Roff McKay said.

A smell registered overseas is the scent on a thread called the 'fresh flower of pulmeria blossom'.

The Legislative Council Bills Committee and the legal profession are concerned the definition is too wide and goes beyond what is required under the Trade Related Intellectual Property agreement.

Intellectual Property Department deputy director Averil Waters said the territory's drafters were using a liberal interpretation to protect the rights of product owners.

She said legislators and the legal profession had suggested it might be preferable to limit amendments to the definition and leave more radical interpretations to reforms planned for next year.

The Trade and Industry Branch held consultations over the proposed amendments last week.