7 Famous Phrases Famous People Own

A trademark is a word, symbol, or phrase used to identify particular products. Think of Nike and their swoosh. Common words and phrases can be trademarked by companies or individuals if the entity submitting the request can prove that the meaning of the phrase has a distinctive second meaning. Here are seven examples of individuals who have successfully turned their catchphrase into a trademark "“ and often, a hefty profit.

"Three-peat"

In 1988, Pat Riley and his Los Angeles Lakers were headed for a third consecutive NBA championship. The team started to use the term "three-peat" to describe their ultimate goal. Coach Riley claims the term originated from player Byron Scott. During the season, Riley registered the phrase as a trademark for use on merchandise. The Lakers' third championship attempt was thwarted by the Pistons in 1989, but the Chicago Bulls accomplished the feat in 1993. Riley was able to slam-dunk all the way to the bank when the Bulls opted to use the phrase for championship merchandise.

In 2005, a group of USC students were anticipating a third consecutive BCS championship and attempted to trademark the phrase "Three-Pete." The misspelling was created not only to avoid paying Riley for use of the phrase, but also to pay homage to coach Pete Carroll. The federal trademark board ruled that the spelling difference was not enough to differentiate it from Riley's three-peat. When a student started to sell his own "Three-Pete" shirts he was served with copyright infringement notification. And, just like Riley, USC did not succeed in reaching a three-peat.

"Let's Get Ready to Rumble!"

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Michael Buffer, the boxing and wrestling announcer well-known for his booming voice and classic catchphrase, holds the trademark to this phrase, which he started using in the 1980s. By 1992 he had a federally registered trademark for it. The move turned out to be profitable, as Buffer has used the phrase for songs, video games, and lottery commercials. Always the entrepreneur, Buffer licensed the phrase to New York City taxicabs in the late 1990s for use in a welcome message, voiced by Buffer himself, encouraging riders to buckle their seatbelt before exclaiming "Let's get ready to rumble.... for SAFETY!"

Buffer even appeared in a commercial for Kraft cheese and oh-so-cleverly changed the phrase to "Lets get ready to crumble!" for the company's pre-packaged cheese crumbles. Surprisingly, Buffer has spared incarnations of the phrase involving many rhyming words. Look out fumble, bumble, stumble, humble, et. al.

"Let's Roll"

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There have been at least 17 approved applications to trademark the phrase "Let's roll" since September 11, 2001. Heroic Choices, the charitable organization formerly known as the Todd M. Beamer Foundation, trademarked the phrase in order to sell merchandise with proceeds going to the charity. But 16 additional claims were granted to other companies, for use on other types of merchandise including rolling back packs, roller sports, soft pretzels, paint rollers, metal building materials and tapes. Even Rolling Rock beer offers you to "Let's roll... and rock with Rolling Rock." An applicant using the name "Let's Roll Freedom Fighters" trademarked the phrase for use on just about anything you can buy in a gift shop; mouse pads, lighters, key chains and gun cases.

"That's Hot"

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Heiress Paris Hilton popularized her catchphrase "that's hot" on her hit reality show The Simple Life. She was the subject of media scrutiny when she applied for a trademark for the simple and relatively common phrase. She was granted three trademarks in 2007: one for use in men and women's clothing, another for electronic devices and a third for alcoholic beverages. She has used the phrase to promote a canned version of an Italian sparkling wine called Rich Prosecco.

Later in 2007, Hilton announced plans to sue Hallmark for using her image and trademarked phrase on a greeting card. Hallmark claims that the card is fair game because it is parody; Hilton feels her rights have been violated. Currently, it is unclear if the case will go to court.

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"Bam!"

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Emeril Lagasse's "Emeril's Food of Love" company owns the right to the phrase "Bam!" for its use on just about anything you can find in a drawer or cabinet in your kitchen: pans, pots, spatulas and tongs. There are numerous other claims to the phrase, including one by Jackass star Bam Margera and one by the EasyOff company for their cleaning products of the same name, but only Emeril's uses an exclamation point.

"Goodnight my sweet Anna baby"

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Larry Birkhead, the father of the late Anna Nicole Smith's daughter Dannielynn, trademarked this phrase for its use in movies, books, television programs and stage plays. The phrase was used heavily by the media during coverage of Smith's death. Birkhead claims the phrase is what the late Smith wanted to hear every night before she went to sleep, and Birkhead included the line in a poem on his website following her passing.

While Birkhead claims he never filed for the trademark, it is registered in his name. His former attorney, Debra Opri, claims that she advised him to trademark the phrase to "protect himself" because "You don't want someone else to take advantage of something he said internationally -- after he said it in court and then on one of the TV shows, it became famous." Given all of the people who have tried to earn a profit from Smith's death, it was probably a smart move.

"They are who we thought they were"

Normally quiet Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green first uttered this trademarked phrase during a swear-filled, post-game tirade in 2006. When he was asked what he thought of the Chicago Bears after his team dropped a 20-point lead during a Monday Night Football game, Green responded "they are who we thought they were." There is another part to the quote "and we let em' off the hook!" that is not part of the trademark. Green exclusively owns the right to use the phrase for sports merchandise, but the clip is a sports media standard that is used when teams fail to take advantage of their opponent's obvious flaws.

Caroline Donnelly is an occasional contributor to mentalfloss.com.

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New Plant-Based Coating Can Keep Your Avocados Fresh for Twice as Long
Apeel
Apeel

Thanks to a food technology startup called Apeel Sciences, eating fresh avocados will soon be a lot easier. The Bill Gates–backed company has developed a coating designed to keep avocados fresh for up to twice as long as traditional fruit, Bloomberg reports, and these long-lasting avocados will soon be available at 100 grocery stores across the Midwestern U.S. Thirty or so of the grocery stores involved in the limited rollout of the Apeel avocado will be Costcos, so feel free to buy in bulk.

Getting an avocado to a U.S. grocery store is more complicated than it sounds; the majority of avocados sold in the U.S. come from California or Mexico, making it tricky to get fruit to the Midwest or New England at just the right moment in an avocado’s life cycle.

Apeel’s coating is made of plant material—lipids and glycerolipids derived from peels, seeds, and pulp—that acts as an extra layer of protective peel on the fruit, keeping water in and oxygen out, and thus reducing spoilage. (Oxidation is the reason that your sliced avocados and apples brown after they’ve been exposed to the air for a while.) The tasteless coating comes in a powder that fruit producers mix with water and then dip their fruit into.

A side-by-side comparison of a coated and uncoated avocado after 30 days, with the uncoated avocado looking spoiled and the coated one looking fresh
Apeel

According to Apeel, coating a piece of produce in this way can keep it fresh for two to three times longer than normal without any sort of refrigeration of preservatives. This not only allows consumers a few more days to make use of their produce before it goes bad, reducing food waste, but can allow producers to ship their goods to farther-away markets without refrigeration.

Avocados are the first of Apeel's fruits to make it to market, but there are plans to debut other Apeel-coated produce varieties in the future. The company has tested its technology on apples, artichokes, mangos, and several other fruits and vegetables.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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The Curious Origins of 16 Common Phrases
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Our favorite basketball writer is ESPN's Zach Lowe. On his podcast, the conversation often takes detours into the origins of certain phrases. We compiled a list from Zach and added a few of our own, then sent them to language expert Arika Okrent. Where do these expressions come from anyway?

1. BY THE SAME TOKEN

Bus token? Game token? What kind of token is involved here? Token is a very old word, referring to something that’s a symbol or sign of something else. It could be a pat on the back as a token, or sign, of friendship, or a marked piece of lead that could be exchanged for money. It came to mean a fact or piece of evidence that could be used as proof. “By the same token” first meant, basically “those things you used to prove that can also be used to prove this.” It was later weakened into the expression that just says “these two things are somehow associated.”

2. GET ON A SOAPBOX

1944: A woman standing on a soapbox speaking into a mic
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The soapbox that people mount when they “get on a soapbox” is actually a soap box, or rather, one of the big crates that used to hold shipments of soap in the late 1800s. Would-be motivators of crowds would use them to stand on as makeshift podiums to make proclamations, speeches, or sales pitches. The soap box then became a metaphor for spontaneous speech making or getting on a roll about a favorite topic.

3. TOMFOOLERY

The notion of Tom fool goes a long way. It was the term for a foolish person as long ago as the Middle Ages (Thomas fatuus in Latin). Much in the way the names in the expression Tom, Dick, and Harry are used to mean “some generic guys,” Tom fool was the generic fool, with the added implication that he was a particularly absurd one. So the word tomfoolery suggested an incidence of foolishness that went a bit beyond mere foolery.

4. GO BANANAS

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The expression “go bananas” is slang, and the origin is a bit harder to pin down. It became popular in the 1950s, around the same time as “go ape,” so there may have been some association between apes, bananas, and crazy behavior. Also, banana is just a funny-sounding word. In the 1920s people said “banana oil!” to mean “nonsense!”

5. RUN OF THE MILL

If something is run of the mill, it’s average, ordinary, nothing special. But what does it have to do with milling? It most likely originally referred to a run from a textile mill. It’s the stuff that’s just been manufactured, before it’s been decorated or embellished. There were related phrases like “run of the mine,” for chunks of coal that hadn’t been sorted by size yet, and “run of the kiln,” for bricks as they came out without being sorted for quality yet.

6. READ THE RIOT ACT

The Law's Delay: Reading The Riot Act 1820
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When you read someone the riot act you give a stern warning, but what is it that you would you have been reading? The Riot Act was a British law passed in 1714 to prevent riots. It went into effect only when read aloud by an official. If too many people were gathering and looking ready for trouble, an officer would let them know that if they didn’t disperse, they would face punishment.

7. HANDS DOWN

Hands down comes from horse racing, where, if you’re way ahead of everyone else, you can relax your grip on the reins and let your hands down. When you win hands down, you win easily.

8. SILVER LINING

The silver lining is the optimistic part of what might otherwise be gloomy. The expression can be traced back directly to a line from Milton about a dark cloud revealing a silver lining, or halo of bright sun behind the gloom. The idea became part of literature and part of the culture, giving us the proverb “every cloud has a silver lining” in the mid-1800s.

9. HAVE YOUR WORK CUT OUT

The expression “you’ve got your work cut out for you” comes from tailoring. To do a big sewing job, all the pieces of fabric are cut out before they get sewn together. It seems like if your work has been cut for you, it should make job easier, but we don’t use the expression that way. The image is more that your task is well defined and ready to be tackled, but all the difficult parts are yours to get to. That big pile of cut-outs isn’t going to sew itself together!

10. THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE

A grapevine is a system of twisty tendrils going from cluster to cluster. The communication grapevine was first mentioned in 1850s, the telegraph era. Where the telegraph was a straight line of communication from one person to another, the “grapevine telegraph” was a message passed from person to person, with some likely twists along the way.

11. THE WHOLE SHEBANG

The earliest uses of shebang were during the Civil War era, referring to a hut, shed, or cluster of bushes where you’re staying. Some officers wrote home about “running the shebang,” meaning the encampment. The origin of the word is obscure, but because it also applied to a tavern or drinking place, it may go back to the Irish word shebeen for a ramshackle drinking establishment.

12. PUSH THE ENVELOPE

Pushing the envelope belongs to the modern era of the airplane. The “flight envelope” is a term from aeronautics meaning the boundary or limit of performance of a flight object. The envelope can be described in terms of mathematical curves based on things like speed, thrust, and atmosphere. You push it as far as you can in order to discover what the limits are. Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff brought the expression into wider use.

13. CAN’T HOLD A CANDLE

We say someone can’t hold a candle to someone else when their skills don’t even come close to being as good. In other words, that person isn’t even good enough to hold up a candle so that a talented person can see what they’re doing in order to work. Holding the candle to light a workspace would have been the job of an assistant, so it’s a way of saying not even fit to be the assistant, much less the artist.

14. THE ACID TEST

Most acids dissolve other metals much more quickly than gold, so using acid on a metallic substance became a way for gold prospectors to see if it contained gold. If you pass the acid test, you didn’t dissolve—you’re the real thing.

15. GO HAYWIRE

What kind of wire is haywire? Just what it says—a wire for baling hay. In addition to tying up bundles, haywire was used to fix and hold things together in a makeshift way, so a dumpy, patched-up place came to be referred to as “a hay-wire outfit.” It then became a term for any kind of malfunctioning thing. The fact that the wire itself got easily tangled when unspooled contributed to the “messed up” sense of the word.

16. CALLED ON THE CARPET

Carpet used to mean a thick cloth that could be placed in a range of places: on the floor, on the bed, on a table. The floor carpet is the one we use most now, so the image most people associate with this phrase is one where a servant or employee is called from plainer, carpetless room to the fancier, carpeted part of the house. But it actually goes back to the tablecloth meaning. When there was an issue up for discussion by some kind of official council it was “on the carpet.”

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