There are not too many people in the world that don’t have some sort of memory of playing with PLAY-DOH® when they were a child. Tearing the lid off the PLAY-DOH container and getting a whiff of that signature scent, to this day, transports you back to a younger, more carefree time.

PLAY-DOH was patented in 1965, by Noah W. McVicker and Joseph S. McVicker of Cincinnati. The Plastic Modeling Composition of a Soft, Pliable Working Consistency (U. S. Patent No. 3,167,440) was originally designed to be wallpaper cleaner, but the brothers found it made for a better toy as it was toxic-free and made little to no mess.

The recipe for PLAY-DOH has remained almost untouched since it was first introduced. Since 1991, Hasbro has been the owner and manufacturer of the moldable clay. The company, no stranger to intellectual property, decided to expand its portfolio on one of their most popular selling items and applied for a trademark on the clay’s signature scent.

The trademark application was filed in February 2017, and the company was granted a sensory mark on May 15, 2018, Registration No. 5,467,089.  The moldable clay’s scent was described as a “sweet, slightly musky, vanilla fragrance, with slight overtones of cherry, combined with the smell of a salted, wheat-based dough”

While trademarks on scents are not very common, they can be granted.  The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) requires multiple scent samples be sent to an examining attorney. In addition to the scent samples, an applicant must also prove (1) that the scent serves a non-functional purpose and (2) has acquired distinctiveness (two factors required to award any trademark). 

Jonathan Berkowitz, senior vice president of Global Marketing for the PLAY-DOH brand said “[t]he scent of PLAY-DOH compound has always been synonymous with childhood and fun. By officially trademarking the iconic scent, we are able to protect an invaluable point of connection between the brand and fans for years to come.”

The company loves their signature scent so much that in 2008, for PLAY-DOH’s 50th anniversary, they released a cologne/perfume line with Demeter. The description of the scent on the site says “Demeter has bottled that fresh, just-out-of-the-can, eau de PLAY-DOH aroma as part of a year-long celebration of the beloved modeling compound’s 50th birthday. The 1-ounce, spray bottle fragrance is meant for highly-creative people, who seek a whimsical scent reminiscent of their childhood.” 

While most large corporations actively pursue those who infringe on their intellectual property, this case is a little different. A Hasbro representative told Gizmodo they have no plans for litigation now that the trademark is official. “Registering the iconic PLAY-DOH scent as a trademark gives Hasbro a whole host of fun and creative opportunities in the future, but in the present moment, plans are not currently set.”

Suiter Swantz IP is a full-service intellectual property law firm, based in Omaha, NE, serving all of Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota. If you have any intellectual property questions or need assistance with any patent, trademark, or copyright matters would like to speak with one of our patent attorneys please contact us.