Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Trademark Applications Covering Viral "U Name It" Challenge Audio Filed

If you even glanced at social media over the Thanksgiving holiday, you're familiar with the #UNameItChallenge (or you should be).  A clip of the gospel singer Dr. Shirley Caesar singing about "beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes," etc. went viral across the internet and was remixed over and over (including by Snoop Dogg, who apparently did so with Shirley Caesar's blessing). 

And now, as of December 9th, those recordings (the audio only) are the subject of three federal trademark applications filed by a Georgia entity called U Name It, LLC.  The services covered by those applications are a variety of entertainment services by a female artist in Class 41.

The audio covered by these applications includes clips of Shirley singing "I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes," "Look - I got beans, greens, potatoes, tomatoes, lamb, rams [sic?], hogs dogs [sic], chicken turnkey [sic?] rabbit - you name it," and "You Name It."  Links to the actual audio covered by these applications are below:
It's unclear whether U Name It, LLC is related to Dr. Shirley Caesar's official #UNameIt Challenge shop, which apparently she is using to raise money for charity.  It's also unclear whether the applications were filed as part of the gospel singer's strategy in her lawsuit against DJ Suede (the creator of the original remix), which was filed right around the same time as these trademarks and was apparently prompted by the gospel singer's objection to the use of alcohol in the remix video.

Although applications for sound marks are not that common, sounds can serve as trademarks (for example, HBO obtained a registration for its iconic opening and closing clips).  The Trademark Manual Of Examining Procedure provides "[s]ound marks function as source indicators when they 'assume a definitive shape or arrangement' and 'create in the hearer’s mind an association of the sound' with a good or service." Section 1202.15.

If U Name It, LLC successfully obtains registrations for these sound marks it could, theoretically, prevent others from using similar audio in conjunction with entertainment services related to those listed in the applications.

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