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18 Sounds You Probably Didn't Realize Were Trademarked

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Registering an aural trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office can be difficult. Harley-Davidson famously tried for years to get this protection for the purr of their V-twin motorcycle engine, only to be locked in legal limbo for so long that they gave up and withdrew their request.

By 1998, only 23 sound trademarks had been issued in the United States. For reference, around 730,000 total trademarks had been granted by that time. Since then, more and more companies have been able to lock down so-called "sound marks," but the distinction is still relatively rare.

Harley-Davidson might've missed out, but here are 18 examples of sounds that have been successfully trademarked.

1. Mockingjay Whistle

Serial Number: 85409089

Lions Gate Entertainment is understandably protective of its lucrative Hunger Games franchise, so it's no surprise they trademarked Rue's four-note song, described to the United States Patent and Trademark Office as "a human whistling a G4 eighth note, followed by a Bb4 eighth note, followed by an A4 eighth note, followed by a D4 half note, in the key of G minor."

2. Law & Order's "Chung Chung"

Serial Number: 76641094

That iconic two-strike "chung chung" sound was created by composer Mike Post, who also wrote the show's theme song. "I sampled a jail door slamming, I sampled a couple of other things, I put together this ‘clunk clunk,’ ‘ching ching,’ ‘chong chong,’ whatever the hell you want to call it," Post said in an interview.

"It’s not a sound effect," he added. "It’s actually a piece of music that gets a royalty…I call it the ‘ching ching’ because I’m making money off of it."

While Post gets a royalty, Universal holds the trademark, describing the sound as "two musical notes, a strike and a rapid rearticulation of a perfect fifth pitch interval, which in the key of C sounds the notes C and G, struck concurrently."

3. 60 Minutes' Ticking Stopwatch

Serial Number: 85793891

The iconic ticking of 60 Minutes' stopwatch was successfully trademarked by CBS. The above video is a full hour of that sound, just in case you are bored and want to drive yourself insane.

4. Meth Being Smoked

Serial Number: 77268435

Bad news for any companies out there who want to use the sound of someone smoking methamphetamines to promote their product: The Meth Project Foundation, a group that produces anti-meth PSAs, trademarked that sound about a decade ago.

"The sound of burning methamphetamine," according to their application, features "the flick of a lighter, followed by a fizzing sound of a small flame ignition, and high pitched metallic crackling sounds."

You can listen for yourself in the above PSA.

5. “D'oh!”

Serial Number: 76280750

While it may be listed in Simpsons scripts as an "annoyed grunt," the sound of Homer Simpson saying "D'oh!" is now an official trademark owned by Twentieth Century Fox.

6. Tarzan's Yell

Serial Number: 75326989

Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. protects the intellectual property of the author and Tarzan creator, and it holds the trademark for his hero's yell, as made famous by actor Johnny Weissmuller. However, in the Tarzan books, Burroughs merely described this holler as "the victory cry of the bull ape." The trademark registration's language isn't quite as concise:

A series of approximately ten sounds, alternating between the chest and falsetto registers of the voice, as follows - 1) a semi-long sound in the chest register, 2) a short sound up an interval of one octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound, 3) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 4) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 5) a long sound down one octave plus a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 6) a short sound up one octave from the preceding sound, 7) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 8) a short sound down a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 9) a short sound up a Major 3rd from the preceding sound, 10) a long sound down an octave plus a fifth from the preceding sound.

7. Darth Vader's Breathing

Serial Number: 77419252

LucasFilm trademarked the "sound of rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator," better known as Darth Vader's robotically enhanced respiratory system. You know he's on the dark side because lawyers got involved.

8. Lightsaber Sound

Serial Number: 77419246

Use legal force, Luke.

The sound of a lightsaber, FYI, is described as "an oscillating humming buzz created by combining feedback from a microphone with a projector motor sound."

9. Pillsbury Doughboy Giggle

Serial Number: 76163189

Pillsbury owns the rights to this "childlike human giggle," but remember, trademark infringement is no laughing matter.

10. Taco Bell Bell

Serial Number: 77805701

This trademarked entity is described as a "bong" sound, but not the one many Taco Bell enthusiasts are familiar with.

11. NYSE Bell

Serial Number: 76344794

That "clang clang" is "the sound of a brass bell tuned to the pitch D, but with an overtone of D-sharp, struck nine times at a brisk tempo, with the final tone allowed to ring until the sound decays naturally."

It's heard every workday morning on Wall Street...except when it isn't.

12. Mimsie's Meow

Serial Number:75143671

Mary Tyler Moore's MTM Productions used Mimsie, a stage cat, for their logo, which was a spoof on the MGM lion's hearty roar (which is itself a trademarked sound). Apparently, the meow had to be added in post-production because Mimsie refused to perform for the cameras. They just captured her yawning and overlaid the now-trademarked sound.

All of MTM's shows, as well as the trademark for Mimsie's meow, are now owned by Twentieth Century Fox.

13. Green Giant's "HO HO HO"

Serial Number: 75821499

This "sound of a deep, male, human-like voice saying 'Ho-Ho-Ho' in even intervals with each 'Ho' dropping in pitch" is used by an exuberant verdant monster to push frozen veggies.

14. Aflac Quack

Serial Number: 76307773

If you're in the park and hear a duck quacking the word "Aflac," please notify American Family Life Assurance Company as you may be witnessing a trademark violation.

15. ESPN's "DaDaDa DaDaDa"

Serial Number: 75676156

When you hear "six musical notes played in a fast tempo: 'D, C sharp, D, D, C sharp, D,'" you know some hot sports action is about to go down.

Grammy-winning composer John Colby created the short jingle in 1989, despite claims to the contrary from David St. Hubbins:

16. "You've Got Mail"

Serial Number: 75528557

In 1989, Elwood Edwards recorded a series of test greetings for Quantum Computer Services onto a cassette recorder at the behest of his wife, who worked for the company. The company soon changed their name to America Online, and those test greetings—"Welcome," "You've got mail," "File's done," "Goodbye"—were loaded into software that would eventually usher millions of people onto the Internet for the first time.

AOL allowed Warner Bros. to use the trademarked phrase for the 1998 Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan movie of the same name, helping make Elwood's voice one of the most famous sounds of the 1990s (not that he needed the help). Edwards spent most of his life behind the camera, though, and he recently retired from his local news production job in Cleveland, Ohio.

17. Tivo's Bloops

Tivo trademarked ten sounds produced by their remotes and digital recording boxes. Every bloop and bleep is accounted for.

18. Ice Cream Truck Music

Serial Number: 85485669

No one can own the cheery melodies that blast from ice cream trucks and bring back memories of carefree youthful summers, right? WRONG. “Turkey in the Straw," “The Entertainer," and “Camptown Races” are now trademarked by Breville, Ltd. for use with their Smart Scoop brand ice cream makers.

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Live Smarter
8 Tricks to Help Your Cat and Dog to Get Along
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When people aren’t debating whether cats or dogs are more intelligent, they’re equating them as mortal foes. That’s a stereotype that both cat expert Jackson Galaxy, host of the Animal Planet show My Cat From Hell, and certified dog trainer Zoe Sandor want to break.

Typically, cats are aloof and easily startled, while dogs are gregarious and territorial. This doesn't mean, however, that they can't share the same space—they're just going to need your help. “If cats and dogs are brought up together in a positive, loving, encouraging environment, they’re going to be friends,” Galaxy tells Mental Floss. “Or at the very least, they’ll tolerate each other.”

The duo has teamed up in a new Animal Planet series, Cat Vs. Dog, which airs on Saturdays at 10 p.m. The show chronicles their efforts to help pet owners establish long-lasting peace—if not perfect harmony—among cats and dogs. (Yes, it’s possible.) Gleaned from both TV and off-camera experiences, here are eight tips Galaxy and Sandor say will help improve household relations between Fido and Fluffy.


Contrary to popular belief, certain breeds of cats and dogs don't typically get along better than others. According to Galaxy and Sandor, it’s more important to take their personalities and energy levels into account. If a dog is aggressive and territorial, it won’t be a good fit in a household with a skittish cat. In contrast, an aging dog would hate sharing his space with a rambunctious kitten.

If two animals don’t end up being a personality match, have a backup plan, or consider setting up a household arrangement that keeps them separated for the long term. And if you’re adopting a pet, do your homework and ask its previous owners or shelter if it’s lived with other animals before, or gets along with them.


To set your dog up for success with cats, teach it to control its impulses, Sandor says. Does it leap across the kitchen when someone drops a cookie, or go on high alert when it sees a squeaky toy? If so, it probably won’t be great with cats right off the bat, since it will likely jump up whenever it spots a feline.

Hold off Fido's face time with Fluffy until the former is trained to stay put. And even then, keep a leash handy during the first several cat-dog meetings.


Cats need a protected space—a “base camp” of sorts—that’s just theirs, Galaxy says. Make this refuge off-limits to the dog, but create safe spaces around the house, too. This way, the cat can confidently navigate shared territory without trouble from its canine sibling.

Since cats are natural climbers, Galaxy recommends taking advantage of your home’s vertical space. Buy tall cat trees, install shelves, or place a cat bed atop a bookcase. This allows your cat to observe the dog from a safe distance, or cross a room without touching the floor.

And while you’re at it, keep dogs away from the litter box. Cats should feel safe while doing their business, plus dogs sometimes (ew) like to snack on cat feces, a bad habit that can cause your pooch to contract intestinal parasites. These worms can cause a slew of health problems, including vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and anemia.

Baby gates work in a pinch, but since some dogs are escape artists, prepare for worst-case scenarios by keeping the litter box uncovered and in an open space. That way, the cat won’t be cornered and trapped mid-squat.


“People exercise their dogs probably 20 percent of what they should really be doing,” Sandor says. “It’s really important that their energy is released somewhere else so that they have the ability to slow down their brains and really control themselves when they’re around kitties.”

Dogs also need lots of stimulation. Receiving it in a controlled manner makes them less likely to satisfy it by, say, chasing a cat. For this, Sandor recommends toys, herding-type activities, lure coursing, and high-intensity trick training.

“Instead of just taking a walk, stop and do a sit five times on every block,” she says. “And do direction changes three times on every block, or speed changes two times. It’s about unleashing their herding instincts and prey drive in an appropriate way.”

If you don’t have time for any of these activities, Zoe recommends hiring a dog walker, or enrolling in doggy daycare.


In Galaxy's new book, Total Cat Mojo, he says it’s a smart idea to let cats and dogs sniff each other’s bedding and toys before a face-to-face introduction. This way, they can satisfy their curiosity and avoid potential turf battles.


Just like humans, cats and dogs have just one good chance to make a great first impression. Luckily, they both love food, which might ultimately help them love each other.

Schedule the first cat-dog meeting during mealtime, but keep the dog on a leash and both animals on opposite sides of a closed door. They won’t see each other, but they will smell each other while chowing down on their respective foods. They’ll begin to associate this smell with food, thus “making it a good thing,” Galaxy says.

Do this every mealtime for several weeks, before slowly introducing visual simulation. Continue feeding the cat and dog separately, but on either side of a dog gate or screen, before finally removing it all together. By this point, “they’re eating side-by-side, pretty much ignoring each other,” Galaxy says. For safety’s sake, continue keeping the dog on a leash until you’re confident it’s safe to take it off (and even then, exercise caution).


After you've successfully ingratiated the cat and dog using feeding exercises, keep their food bowls separate. “A cat will walk up to the dog bowl—either while the dog’s eating, or in the vicinity—and try to eat out of it,” Galaxy says. “The dog just goes to town on them. You can’t assume that your dog isn’t food-protective or resource-protective.”

To prevent these disastrous mealtime encounters, schedule regular mealtimes for your pets (no free feeding!) and place the bowls in separate areas of the house, or the cat’s dish up on a table or another high spot.

Also, keep a close eye on the cat’s toys—competition over toys can also prompt fighting. “Dogs tend to get really into catnip,” Galaxy says. “My dog loves catnip a whole lot more than my cats do.”


Socializing these animals at a young age can be easier than introducing them as adults—pups are easily trainable “sponges” that soak up new information and situations, Sandor says. Plus, dogs are less confident and smaller at this stage in life, allowing the cat to “assume its rightful position at the top of the hierarchy,” she adds.

Remain watchful, though, to ensure everything goes smoothly—especially when the dog hits its rambunctious “teenage” stage before becoming a full-grown dog.

10 Juicy Facts About Sea Apples

They're both gorgeous and grotesque. Sea apples, a type of marine invertebrate, have dazzling purple, yellow, and blue color schemes streaking across their bodies. But some of their habits are rather R-rated. Here’s what you should know about these weird little creatures.


The world’s oceans are home to more than 1200 species of sea cucumber. Like sand dollars and starfish, sea cucumbers are echinoderms: brainless, spineless marine animals with skin-covered shells and a complex network of internal hydraulics that enables them to get around. Sea cucumbers can thrive in a range of oceanic habitats, from Arctic depths to tropical reefs. They're a fascinating group with colorful popular names, like the “burnt hot dog sea cucumber” (Holothuria edulis) and the sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa), a scavenger that’s been described as a “living vacuum cleaner.”


Sea apples have oval-shaped bodies and belong to the genus Pseudocolochirus and genus Paracacumaria. The animals are indigenous to the western Pacific, where they can be found shuffling across the ocean floor in shallow, coastal waters. Many different types are kept in captivity, but two species, Pseudocolochirus violaceus and Pseudocolochirus axiologus, have proven especially popular with aquarium hobbyists. Both species reside along the coastlines of Australia and Southeast Asia.


Sea cucumbers, the ocean's sanitation crew, eat by swallowing plankton, algae, and sandy detritus at one end of their bodies and then expelling clean, fresh sand out their other end. Sea apples use a different technique. A ring of mucus-covered tentacles around a sea apple's mouth snares floating bits of food, popping each bit into its mouth one at a time. In the process, the tentacles are covered with a fresh coat of sticky mucus, and the whole cycle repeats.


Sea apples' waving appendages can look delicious to predatory fish, so the echinoderms minimize the risk of attracting unwanted attention by doing most of their feeding at night. When those tentacles aren’t in use, they’re retracted into the body.


The rows of yellow protuberances running along the sides of this specimen are its feet. They allow sea apples to latch onto rocks and other hard surfaces while feeding. And if one of these feet gets severed, it can grow back.


Sea apples are poisonous, but a few marine freeloaders capitalize on this very quality. Some small fish have evolved to live inside the invertebrates' digestive tracts, mooching off the sea apples' meals and using their bodies for shelter. In a gross twist of evolution, fish gain entry through the back door, an orifice called the cloaca. In addition expelling waste, the cloaca absorbs fresh oxygen, meaning that sea apples/cucumbers essentially breathe through their anuses.


Most full-grown adult sea apples are around 3 to 8 inches long, but they can make themselves look twice as big if they need to escape a threat. By pulling extra water into their bodies, some can grow to the size of a volleyball, according to Advanced Aquarist. After puffing up, they can float on the current and away from danger. Some aquarists might mistake the robust display as a sign of optimum health, but it's usually a reaction to stress.


Sea apples use their vibrant appearance to broadcast that they’re packing a dangerous toxin. But to really scare off predators, they puke up some of their own innards. When an attacker gets too close, sea apples can expel various organs through their orifices, and some simultaneously unleash a cloud of the poison holothurin. In an aquarium, the holothurin doesn’t disperse as widely as it would in the sea, and it's been known to wipe out entire fish tanks.


These invertebrates reproduce sexually; females release eggs that are later fertilized by clouds of sperm emitted by the males. As many saltwater aquarium keepers know all too well, sea apple eggs are not suitable fish snacks—because they’re poisonous. Scientists have observed that, in Pseudocolochirus violaceus at least, the eggs develop into small, barrel-shaped larvae within two weeks of fertilization.


Syzgium grande is a coastal tree native to Southeast Asia whose informal name is "sea apple." When fully grown, they can stand more than 140 feet tall. Once a year, it produces attractive clusters of fuzzy white flowers and round green fruits, perhaps prompting its comparison to an apple tree.


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