Protecting ‘Pig Sooie’ & Distinctive Sounds Through Trademark
Earlier this summer, the University of Arkansas, home of the Razorbacks, secured trademark protection for its “Calling the Hogs” chant. Football and basketball fans may recognize the familiar “woo pig sooie!” cheer, which was granted trademark protection by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Registration Number 4558864: “The Mark consists of a sound. The Mark consists of a crowd cheering the following words “WOOOOOOOO. PIG. SOOIE! WOOOOOOOO. PIG. SOOIE! WOOOOOOOO. PIG. SOOIE! RAZORBACKS!”
This registration was unique in that the University gained protection for the sound of the call, and not the words or other marks. Although rare, “sensory marks” can be useful for distinctive sounds, jingles like the McDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” or the NBC chimes, and chants that signify a particular source.
The University has been callings the Hogs since the 1920s, and is claiming to be the first to register a collegiate cheer. Jeff Long, Vice Chancellor and Director of Athletics for the school, attributes their success to the “unique characteristics of the Hog Call and its connection with the University of Arkansas.”
So what does this mean exactly for Razorback fans who want to cheer on their favorite team without fear of infringing on the mark? Long clarified in a press release saying the federal protection is not meant to impede fans from Calling the Hogs, but is to ensure that the call “remains properly affiliated with the University of Arkansas[.]”
For businesses, it is important to remember that brand protection is not limited to logos or designs. Color, smell, and even sound can all be protectable if they distinctive enough to signify a particular brand.
This is a link to the chant. Enjoy the upcoming football season!