UMG HQ in Santa Monica, CA

The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board has denied Universal Music Group’s application to register “As Heard On TV” as a trademark.

The board ruled that the phrase merely describes a service that offers TV-friendly music. The decision was handed down on April 17th with a solid rejection of the application.

UMG’s application featured a logo for its library of TV-friendly music and soundtracks available to license.  The service offered by UMG subsidiary Universal Production Music, which houses a considerable catalog of sync-ready tracks.  TV-specific licensing is big business, especially given the surge of video content being pumped out by OTT platforms like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and others.

Judge Thomas Shaw rejected UMG’s argument that the catchphrase was a distinctive double entendre on the common infomercial slogan ‘As Seen On TV’.  In his conclusion, Shaw writes that the phrase ‘As Heard On TV’ has no such double connotation or significance.

“Rather, it simply is a variation of the phrase ‘As Seen On TV’ to account for the fact that music cannot be seen on TV, only heard.”

UMG unit Universal Music Publishing MGB Ltd. first applied to register the logo in 2014.

An examining attorney said that the application was unlikely to be approved unless UMG waived exclusive rights to the phrase. UMG declined, instead appealing the decision to the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.

UMG also argued that the phrase wasn’t descriptive of its music library. The application said songs in the library are “exclusive and unlikely to have been heard on television previously.” Judge Shaw called that argument unpersuasive and said that UMG’s own website advertises the music as ‘proven TV-friendly music covering all production themes.’

Attorneys for UMG declined to comment on the decision this Monday.

The case in question is #86454380 at the USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.