Is a short corporate sonic logo sufficiently unique to be protected by copyright? Does the audio recording need to be registered as a trademark? How unique is the sound design or composition compared to prior works?
Many corporations use sonic logos or idents, and these can be protected as copyrights and/or trademarks. Attorneys may need to file documentation, supported by sonic analysis by a musicologist, to assert the originality and protectability of these assets. Past projects have included audio analyses for some of the world’s largest tech companies (sonic logos), major retailers (advertising idents), and audio analysis for the automotive industry. Corporate consulting is usually subject to a non-disclosure agreement.
In 2019 Dr Bennett assisted a regional public transport agency in analysing the Audio Vehicle Alert System (AVAS) used in its fleet of buses. The brief was to compare the short composition to prior works to assess its uniqueness, and to describe and notate the sonic elements in the AVAS sound. Dr Bennett used a combination of traditional transcription, repertoire research, melodic spectrograms, and waveform analysis, to document the originality of the composition, and to ensure that the company’s intellectual property could be protected in future.
“Arrival sound” (2021)
In 2021 Dr Bennett acted for a US law firm, analysing and documenting audio and music compositions that had been created for their client, an international brand. The music was required to provide a feeling of ‘arrival’ in a very short composition to be used in advertising. Dr Bennett used repertoire research to investigate the history of arrival sounds in the advertising industry, and in music of other repertoires and cultures. Spectrographic analysis was included to investigate the way listeners would be likely to perceive the instrumental timbres of the composition. Dr Bennett’s report was used by the law firm to ascertain and document the originality of the arrival sound for their client.