Hasbro trademarks Play-Doh's "sweet, slightly musky" scent

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/21/hasbro-trademarks-play-dohs.html

Wooden furniture, primary colors, knee high sinks, Play-Doh smell. It’s all coming back to me…


In the U.S., you have to show that a fragrance serves no important practical function other than to help identify and distinguish a brand. The smell of an air freshener or a women’s perfume wouldn’t count, for example.

I don’t get it? That is the exact definition of perfume. At least after-shave contains an astringent, but cologne doesnt. Did I miss a practical application somewhere? Does it kill roaches?

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“The scent of PLAY-DOH compound has always been synonymous with childhood and fun,”

Funny, I always associated it with childhood snack time. (Just me? That stuff’s filling.)

(Also, ridiculous trademark.)

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I have a sweet, slightly musky scent right now!
(Hats off to @Papasan)


What about that institutional cleanser smell? Have you ever noticed that all Sunday School rooms built more than 50 years ago all smell the same? It’s like someone stirred Pine-Sol and tempera paints together.


It’s just the scent they use in talcum powder. Trademarked?

It’s possible to make your own play-dough. Geez.

Question: how is it that they are able to trademark something that has been around for 40+ years? If someone were making a Play-Doh clone previously to the trademark being issued, would they be forced to stop production?

Perfume serves a practical function of masking natural body odor. Also, I guess, in some people’s minds, advertising sexual availability? In my neighborhood you can sometimes smell a man’s after-shave from across the street.

I think the argument is that Play-doh would serve its “function” just as well with a completely different smell, or no smell. Perfume’s function is to have its particular smell, and so would not serve that function without it.

Trademarks are not like patents, where you have to file within 1 yr of selling a product. You can file a trademark whenever you want after you have started using the mark/scent in commerce, even if it’s 40 yrs after you started using it.

As to the Play-Doh clone, that is a good question. The clone manufacturer may be able to argue that the trademark is invalid because Hasbro has not been using it exclusively over the years. This is a good argument if the clone manufacturer has been using it for decades before the registration issues as opposed to days.

But ultimately the clone manufacturer would have to decide between fighting a multi-million dollar fight or change the smell with a different fragrance. Considering that, if the clone manufacturer wins, it will have helped other clone manufacturers (who didn’t spend the money) to continue making their product without changes, it is more likely that the clone manufacturer would either stop using the Play Doh fragrance (giving you a plain smelling dough and a lower manufacturing cost) or switch to a different fragrance.

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What an epistemological conundrum!

The law often relies on categories that don’t, in a fundamental sense, exist outside of human judgment, or at least don’t have sharp boundaries, right? It may be dumb, but i don’t think it’s a conundrum.

Well I think it’s a subspace anomaly at the very least.

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I dont understand how this in enforceable. It’s probably just the threat of litigation and not the litigation itself that makes it effective (if anything).

A sample of the scent then has to be sent to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for inspection, which Hasbro did in February 2017.

That must have been a wild day in the office. Who do you suppose they tap to evaluate potential scent trademarks? There can’t be enough of them to justify a dedicated specialist.

♪ When you touch me like this
And you hold me like that ♫



This will end up with VantaStank.