Friday, July 18, 2014

Razorbacks trademark the Hog Call

Posted By on Fri, Jul 18, 2014 at 12:21 PM


Thanks to KARK for noting a Forbes article that the University of Arkansas has trademarked the Hog Call, the cheer that has been a part of Razorback athletics since the 1920s.

Earlier this month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted registration of the sensory mark to the Board of Trustees of the University of Arkansas. The type of mark is atypical among commonly registered trademarks. Instead of it consisting of a word or design, it is a sound. Specifically, the University of Arkansas has received federal protection of Arkansas-influenced crowd cheers consisting of the “Woooooooo. Pig. Sooie!” chant in conjunction with providing collegiate athletic and sporting events.

Logos, names, colors and the like are more familiar trademark territory than a sound.

The application for ownership of the trademark, submitted on July 26, 2013, had to overcome a USPTO examining attorney’s Office Action, which stated that “[b]ecause crowds commonly chant encouraging words at sporting events, consumers of the sporting event would not recognize the chant as a source indicator for the event.”


The UA responded with a video of former Athletic Director Frank Broyles leading a Hog Call.

Will other universities register chants?

Will the UA file an infringement action if somebody breaks out in a Hog call at a wedding, an airport, on a cruise ship or a River Market bar.

Has anybody ever used the chant in a way that the UA would view now as an infringement?

Funny business, this Jeff Long-era branding obsession.

I've sent some followup questions to the Athletic Department about imagined needs for such protection. One thought I had is whether this would apply to a trademark on use of the words in print, such as on a T-shirt. I think farmers hollered the words before the football team came along, but ....

UPDATE:

I probably should have said I was joking about crackdowns on ad hoc hog calling at weddings and such. (I do wonder about standard use of the call on news station intros and the like.) But Kevin Trainor in the Athletic Department provides the following:

The University of Arkansas already owns a federally trademark registration for “Wooo Pig Sooie!”, Arkansas Razorbacks, University of Arkansas among others.

The new sound mark registration, the same as the previously registered trademarks and logos, cannot be utilized for commercial usage without permission or a license from the University of Arkansas. It does not pertain to non-commercial usage like fans calling the Hogs at games, in hotel lobbies, pep rallies and anywhere in the world for that matter. Those would not be commercial uses.

I would point you to a Jeff Long quote in the press release.

“These registrations are designed to protect the commercial integrity of a cheer that has been synonymous with the University of Arkansas since the late 1920s. To be very clear, these registrations do not apply and in no way prohibit all Razorbacks from Calling the Hogs as much as they can. Instead, they mark a proactive step to ensure the Hog Call cheer made famous by Razorback fans remains properly affiliated with the University of Arkansas and our great state.”

The news release, which came to me late in the day, said "The University of Arkansas is believed to be the first college or university in the nation to receive a federal trademark registration for its college cheer as a sound mark from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. …. Other examples of registered sound marks include the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) chimes and the whistle introduction to the song Sweet Georgia Brown which is identified with the Harlem Globetrotters."
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