SBJ/July 28-Aug. 3, 2014/Colleges

Woo Pig suing?: Arkansas gets sound trademark for call

University of Arkansas fans have been calling the hogs nearly as long as their Razorbacks have been playing football, making “Wooo Pig Sooie” one of the most recognizable cheers in collegiate athletics.

Now the school is making its claim to the cheer legally binding by obtaining a sound trademark for the Hog Call.

The trademarked cheer appears to be a first.

Arkansas officials think it’s the first collegiate cheer or chant to be officially registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark office as a sound or sensory mark.

Harold Evans, a Little Rock attorney with the Williams and Anderson firm and the university’s outside counsel, registered the cheer with the trademark office. Arkansas’ costs for the sound trademark included the government filing fee of $325, plus attorney fees.

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Evans, who specializes in intellectual property and licensing, searched for other school cheers and chants but didn’t uncover any.

Arkansas’ licensing agent, Atlanta-based Collegiate Licensing Co., wasn’t aware of any other trademarked cheers, but CLC said it would need to do a more comprehensive search before calling it the only one. CLC, however, applauded Arkansas’ decision to protect a cheer that so closely is identified with the Razorbacks’ athletic teams.

Candace Stimmel, Arkansas’ director of licensing, said the point of registering the Hog Call was to protect the school in cases where an entity might be commercially using “Wooo Pig Sooie” in a way that potentially harms the school or its athletics.

“It’s not about trying to monetize this iconic piece of who we are. It’s more about protection,” Stimmel said. “We own that action, the Hog Call, and it’s registered under the university’s name. Now we can prove it, in case there’s ever something that comes up that’s potentially damaging.”

It was last summer that Stimmel, Evans and university counsel Scott Varady first discussed the possibility of trademarking the Hog Call.

Sound trademarks are most commonly used for sounds that are associated with a certain brand, like the NBC chimes or the Intel jingle. It’s often equated to an oral or musical signature for a brand.

“We’re always having conversations about how best to protect the symbols and images associated with the university,” Evans said. “The Hog Call has been around since the 1920s and it is exclusively identified with the University of Arkansas. Trademark protection seemed appropriate.”

Evans said he did a “complete search of every sound mark and not a single college or university registered a sound mark or cheer.” As for Arkansas being the first school to federally register its cheer, Evans said, “I’m confident it’s true.”

Arkansas submitted several examples of audio and video showing Razorback fans calling the hogs. Some clips were general crowd shots at football games, while other videos showed individuals, such as Chancellor David Gearhart and Athletic Director Jeff Long.

“They needed several very good examples of our fans calling the hogs,” Stimmel said.

The federal office responded with the trademark earlier this month.

Arkansas is regularly among the top 20 best-selling schools for CLC. In the latest rankings released in May, Arkansas ranked 15th. The Razorbacks ranked 10th for the 2012-13 fiscal year, when they topped $4 million in licensing revenue for the first time.

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