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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 14:13 GMT 15:13 UK
Strawberry smell trademark denied
Bowl of strawberries
Strawberries have different tastes, shapes and smells
A French company has failed in its attempt to trademark the smell of fresh strawberries.

Paris-based Eden Sarl wanted to use the smell in soaps, face cream, stationery, leather goods and clothing.

An initial attempt to get trademark protection was dismissed by the European Union's trademark agency, and Eden took its case to the region's second highest court.

The company argued that while strawberries may look and taste different, they all smell the same, and as a result could be trademarked.

The court took a different view, and smell experts found that instead of just one aroma, strawberries can in fact have up to five different, distinct scents.

Olfactory memory

"Strawberries do not have just one smell," the court said. "This means that the different varieties of strawberries produce significantly different smells."

Companies have been sniffing out the smell of money for some time, but it has proved tricky to get sole control of a scent.

"The smell of ripe strawberries is stable and durable," Eden said. "That smell is well-known to consumers who will have memories of it from childhood."

Tennis player hitting a ball
Smells are used to make tennis balls seem more summery

Smell can be a very powerful marketing tool and is used for luring customers.

Firms have tried and failed to trademark odours before - some notable attempts included raspberry, lemon and vanilla - and while the court rejected this latest attempt, they left the door open for later cases.

"The olfactory memory is probably the most reliable memory that humans posses," the court said. "Consequently, economic operators have a clear interest in using olfactory signs to identify their goods."

According to the Associated Press news agency, the only scent to win EU trademark protection so far is the smell of freshly cut grass.

The smell was registered by a Dutch perfume company that uses it to give tennis balls their aroma.


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