back to article Tarzan's yell must be written in music for trademark registration

Tarzan's distinctive yell cannot be registered as a trademark because it is almost impossible to represent graphically. Sounds can be registered as trademarks, but the ruling (pdf) could limit that to sounds that can be written in standard musical notation. Tarzan was created by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the application to …


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  1. Mark

    WHY copyright the yodel?

    That's what I don't get about it, what the purpose is of copyrighting it in the first place.

    Tarzan (and Lord of Greystoke) is trademarked, the movies and books are copyrighted WHAT is gained by copyrighting the flipping girly scream of the monkey man? Only that other people won't use it.

    I swear, this sort of shit really whacks my nads.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So why didn't they write it musically?

    The yell from the films (I used to love them when they were on telly) is a series of pitches at different harmonic intervals given specific timing, or in layman's terms: a tune.

    They could have written it out if they wanted to, so obviously they didn't want to. Why not? I can only assume that would stop them trying to stop anyone else having a feral man making any screechy noises.

  3. James Smith

    Something to do with Phil Collins?

    He was the guy that wrote the stage musical music (cash-in) for Trazan ... I bet it was him that was pushing for it.

    This is the guy who became famous for playing at both the Live Aid concerts ... and subsquently made a shed load of money by writing 'Another Day In Paradise' (a trashy, over-emotional number about poor people). Nasty nasty man.

    Oh but he does lots of work for charity ... you're right ... he does ... animal charities like PETA ...


    He'll probably be trying to push for trademarks on Meow, Moo, Woof & Oink next!

    Exploitative little bald toxic man. Go back to Switzerland!

    /Rant Over

  4. Mark

    Also just had a thought

    The start of Tarzan's scream is a lot like the opening bar to Tocata and Fuge. Maybe it's a derivative work and JS Back is owed some serious moolah for all the movies.

    Those damn MGM pirates (who, strangely enough moved to Hollywood to avoid the patents they were using without paying for so that, by the time the bailifs came round to collect the royalties, they had divvied up the cash and liquidated the company. What a bunch of pirates Hollywood is!).

    Y'know, I think that copyright nowadays isn't about making money from "your" work but about stopping someone else from making money from it. Probably accountants, figuring that if someone makes £X then you made a loss of £X because (by rights) that money should be YOURS!!!!

  5. BitTwister


    What an absolute sodding waste of time and resources.

  6. Red Bren


    Are you worried you won't be allowed to do the Tarzan yodel next time something whacks your nads?

  7. Anonymous Coward


    They're not trying to copyright the Tarzan cry, they're trying to trademark it.

    The name "Tarzan" might be trademarked but that has nothing to do with the cry.

    The films in which that recording originated are very old now and out of copyright. The books are out of copyright too, though they also have nothing to .do with the sound recording of the Tarzan cry.

    Registering the cry as a trademark affords it new protection that won't expire like copyright does. That's why you could still get sued today if you used without permission an old BBC logo.

    Anyway, the Tarzan cry has become part of popular culture in much of the world, so people should be questioning why anyone want$ to trad£mark it at all.

  8. Keith Turner


    Is that Native American chappie's name still free or do people have to pay a small fee each time the jump out of planes?

    Paris angle -- aren't folks supposed to yell like Tarzan when leaping off the top of wardrobes?

  9. Mark

    @Red Bren


    A cream of anguish isn't enough to communicate the universe of discomfort (as opposed to merely pain) that a nad-whack can engender.

    As for Bit Fiddler, I'm pretty sure that the copyrights on most of it is still available. Even when it isn't, it still is because

    a) the original print is unavailable (rotted, like as not)

    b) a reprint gets an entirely new copyright

    so they still have copyright on the available expressions. Trademarking also needs to be "for a field of endeavour". So what field of endeavour is the wailing for? The "swinging through trees" industry? The "I was brought up in the jungle" marketplace?

    Meh. Petty.

  10. Daniel B.
    Thumb Down


    If they had succeded, does that mean that Baltimora would have to cough up the dough for 'Tarzan Boy' ???

    This is a load of bollocks. Might as well trademark yodelling ...

  11. PunkTiger


    "A cream of anguish"? That conjures up an interesting visual.

    Is that anything like Cream of Tartar? Milk of Magnesia? Oil of Olay?

  12. unitron

    Cherchez la moolah (this phrase copyright me as many years back as needed)

    Maybe this is just about getting a retroactive piece of Carol Burnett show royalties. :-)

  13. Mo


    …I'm slightly more concerned by the fact that the gesture of one touching their nose is apparently trademarked to the Derbyshire building society.

    I'm struggling to comprehend that one, actually. If you work in a competing field, is it a breach of trademark law to touch your nose in that manner?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tarzan's Yell isn't Edgar Rice Burroughs's Property

    The yell was created by Johnny Weissmuller for the movies back in 1932 (the first sound "Tarzan" movie). ERB only mentioned Tarzan's yell in his books, the sound of it wasn't specified. Weissmuller created it under Van Dyke's (and Thalberg's) direction, and therefore, technically, under the law, MGM "owns" the yell. Edgar Rice Burroughs has no part in that particular sound. The fact that the yodel has become identified with Tarzan is solely due to MGM's creative marketing efforts.

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