Sports chants seem to be all the rage lately. This summer, the US Men’s National Soccer Team chant “I Believe That We Will Win!” became a surprise hit at the World Cup tournament in Brazil. In addition, universities across the country are preparing for crowd chants and cheers as the college football season approaches. As the popularity of these chants increase, it’s not too surprising that people are starting to think about commercially protecting these cheers. Several groups are going about this through trademark registration.
The “I Believe” chant is the subject of a 2011 trademark application by San Diego State University with a trademark registration currently pending. SDSU is not intending to receive a trademark registration on the actual chant though, rather they are just hoping to protect the phrase as used on clothing – t-shirts, hats, etc. There is one school however that is looking to protect the actual sound of its chant by receiving a trademark registration on a recording of the cheer.
The University of Arkansas’ mascot is the razorback, a type of wild hog. As part of the school’s culture, fans perform a hog call using the words, “Woooooooo. Pig. Sooie! Woooooooo. Pig. Sooie! Woooooooo. Pig. Sooie! Razorbacks!” According to the school’s trademark application, the chant has been used since 1929. Now the university wants to make sure that it can control the commercial use of the cheer through a trademark registration.
Most trademark registrations are for phrases, slogans, and logos, but the intent of a trademark registration is to protect the source identifier of goods or services from consumer confusion. A sound trademark can be very distinctive and indicate to consumers the source of products or services. Sound trademark registrations are not very common, but do exist. NBC owns the trademark registration on its distinctive chime sound. MGM’s roaring lion that plays before the opening credits of its movies is protected by trademark registration as well.
Arkansas apparently believes that its hog call is a unique source identifier similar to these other sound trademarks. It is very distinctive and indicates a connection with the University of Arkansas. As the business of college football increases, the University understandably would want to be sure that it can protect the use of the famous hog call and that it is used appropriately. The University’s trademark attorney likely didn’t obtain a trademark registration to prevent fans or others from using the hog call. They most likely just wants to be sure that it has control of how it is used commercially.
Without a trademark registration, local businesses might try to use the hog call to capitalize on consumers’ connection with the school. In so doing, they might misuse the call or present it in a tasteless light. With a trademark registration, Arkansas will be able to license the sound and monitor its use on Arkansas’ terms. So when you hear the Woo Pig Sooie cheer commercially, you will know that it has likely been authorized by the University of Arkansas.