What do The Mockingjay Whistle, Law & Order’s “Chung Chung” and Pitbull’s signature "EEEEEEEYOOOOOO" yell all have in common? You guessed it, a sound trademark!
Joining the list of less than 40 sounds that fall under trademark protection. Pitbull's legal team believes his now trademarked "EEEEEEEYOOOOOO" is the first trademarked call sign by a music artist.
"There is a very small sliver of trademarks having to do with sound identification marks. Copyright generally applies to music with respect to sound recordings and music publishing. This is different. This is a signature yell," says Leslie José Zigel, the Chair of the Entertainment, Media & Technology Group at Greenspoon Marder, in addition to being Pitbull's general counsel.
Zigel, along with attorneys Justin F. McNaughton and Ryan Kairalla and Pitbull himself, explained how they achieved the ruling in a new essay published by the NYU Journal of Intellectual Property and Entertainment Law.
The article details how Pitbull signature "Grito" is undoubtedly associated with him even if his name is not uttered or he has not performed it. Making it unique enough to secure two trademark registrations, which were officially granted on Oct. 8, 2019 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). You can hear it in the Instagram video below.
Currently, there are more than 2.6 million active trademark registrations in the United States, yet only 250 of those are sensory trademark registrations. Of that 250, only 36 are “familiar sounds,” which places Pitbull’s registration in a highly rare category.
"He is joining an extremely exclusive club with relation to this, and that's because his yell is so predominant and so recognizable that we got a trademark on it," says Zigel.
This means, moving forward, anyone who uses a Pitbull-sounding “EEEEEEEYOOOOOO” or a close enough likeness without a license, could be liable for infringement. This includes television commercials, ad campaigns, or even other people’s songs. “It’s another piece of intellectual property he owns,” says Zigel.
The decision could also set a trend with other artists, who use common sound bites or catchphrases as a branding technique. Pitbull’s legal team argues; it could be a matter of time before other artists try to follow suit. Stating, “given the prevalence of these call signs throughout the music industry, it is only a matter of time before other music superstars embrace this valuable branding protection and seek to obtain registration for their unique sonic signatures, and they would be wise to do so”.