Roland has quietly filed for trademark protection (Unionsmarkenanmeldung) in Germany for the designs of the TB-303 and TR-808.
The filings were uncovered by a poster on the sequencer.de forum. The discussion is in German:
The “trademark” here is trade dress, the design of the actual appearance of the 303 and 808 – the signature layout of the keyboard and knobs of the 303, and the sequence of colored buttons on the 808. “Iconic” is a word that’s wildly overused, but here we can take it to be almost literally true: you can draw out these layouts and even a lot of lay people with a passing interest in electronic music will immediately recognize this bassline synth and drum machine.
Forum posters conclude that this is about Behringer, who announced last month at the NAMM show that they would ship their “RD-808” drum machine – matching the original TR-808 color scheme and button layout – in March. But the registration in Germany could be a sign Roland are generally planning to more aggressively protect their intellectual property, in respect to Behringer or others. And as the RD-808 could, for instance, wind up being subject to litigation outside Germany – that is, anywhere the drum machine ships.
That said, Behringer without fanfare reversed the order of the colors on their RD-808, from a production prototype (orange / light orange / yellow / white, as on the original Roland) to what was shown at NAMM.
The one thing I can say for sure is – the artwork Roland filed from Japan is gorgeous. So, Roland, please don’t sue us for sharing. (And yeah, I’d buy this if you want to turn it into merch.)
No idea how long processing will take, or really how the law works; if I can find out, I’ll share. At least Germany should appreciate the aesthetics of combining gold, bright red, and black – check the flag.
Meanwhile, in America… Roland last year filed applications for trademark protection in the USA for the TR-808 and TR-909 (also right after the NAMM show, January 25, 2018). You can find these (pending) applications at the United States Patent and Trademark Office, under 87769864 and 87769891.
It’s routine practice to file for things you might want to protect, not necessarily manufacture, but that doesn’t make it any less privately amusing to read this list of apparel that would be covered under that application:
“Jackets; sweaters; sport shirts; polo shirts; shirts; overcoats; raincoats; underwear; pajamas; undershirts; Tee-shirts; wind-resistant jackets; swimming costumes; sleep masks; neckties; aprons; socks and stockings; bandanas; headwear; caps as a headwear; hats”
I totally want a Roland swimming costume. But yeah, if you’re thinking of making one yourself, you should read this: