The EU General Court (EGC) took time from its busy schedule of trying generals to block a Brazilian company from trying to claim ownership of the annoying sound.
In 2014 Grupo Globo applied to register the globally familiar “ring-ring” sound “for the dissemination of information electronically, orally, or by means of television”—guarding its use on all electronic devices and in media representations.
The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) said no, claiming that it had “no distinctive character,” and that it was “a banal and commonplace ringtone which would generally go unnoticed and would not be remembered by the consumer”.
Globo appealed EUIPO’s decision at the EU General Court, which agreed with the EUIPO saying the sound was too boring to register. The EGC, which sits alongside the EU Court of Justice (ECJ), hears actions against the various institutions of the European Union.
The EGC judgment held that distinctive sounds can be trademarked, provided that they may be represented graphically. However, because the ringtone sound is so familiar and so universal, the court decided that a general consumer in the European Union would be “unable, without prior knowledge, to identify that ringing sound as indicating that the goods and services come from Globo”.