The University of Arkansas received a trademark registration earlier this month for the Hog Call, the ubiquitous chant at Arkansas sporting events, weddings, pubs, and anywhere else a few Hog fans get together. I vividly remember watching the '03 Auburn-Arkansas game with a bunch of alums in Washington, D.C. while in law school. We called the Hogs. And called the Hogs. And called the Hogs. I'm sure the waitstaff was happy to see us leave. Unfortunately, we were too far away to be heard, and the Hogs fell 10-3.
As part of any trademark application, the owner has to show that the owner itself uses the mark in commerce, and that the mark functions as an indicator of source. The trademark examiner initially objected to registration of the Hog Call on both grounds, claiming that a video of a crowd performing the Hog Call didn't prove that (1) the crowd would recognize the Hog Call as indicating the UofA as the source of the chant; and (2) the UofA wasn't technically performing the Hog Call in the video.
Undeterred, the UofA filed a new video with the Trademark Office showing none other than Frank Broyles performing the Hog Call. If Frank Broyles back in the day didn't represent the UofA, no one could. Here's the video:
This video was plenty for the examiner to withdraw both objections and grant the registration.
One interesting aside: in order to enforce a trademark for infringement damages, you have to provide notice of the registration by using the "®" symbol or using the words "Registered in U. S. Patent and Trademark Office" or "Reg. U.S. Pat. & Tm. Off." in connection with the mark. How do you do that with a sound?
It sounds weird to hear that a sound can be registered as a trademark, but it's true. There are many examples, such as the NBC chime, the MGM lion (start Dark Side of the Moon on the third lion's roar during the Wizard of Oz), the Looney Tunes theme song, and many more. Check out some examples on the USPTO's website here.