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11 Surprising Copyrighted or Trademarked Phrases
A trademarked or copyrighted phrase is a group of words that a person or company holds exclusive rights to, but there are some key differences between the two. Copyright registration, which is a way to protect an original work, began in the U.S. with the Copyright Act of 1790. A trademark is a way for a business or person to secure the rights to something that exists but already has pre-existing associations. For example, Donald Trump and Cardi B. have tried securing “you’re fired” and “okurr,” respectively, with trademarks. Those phrases already existed, and, in both instances, the powers that be did not see a strong case for either of the phrases to receive a trademark.
Fantasy and science fiction authors like J.K. Rowling have copyrighted many phrases due to the way these writers invent new vocabulary and worlds. Rowling and her publisher sued a fan site in 2008 for trying to publish a book about the Harry Potter universe and won. The fansite had to alter the book but was able to publish a version of it in 2009.
That said, copyright is a serious matter, but it’s also full of surprises. Turning words and ideas into property still seems strange, especially when the phrases in question are so commonplace. Let’s dive deeper into what copyrighted phrases are and review some of our favorites.
How to Obtain a Trademark or Copyright
Before we get into the surprising phrases that are either copyrighted or trademarked, let’s look at how you secure a copyright. Perhaps surprisingly, it can be done from home. Over on copyright.gov , run by the U.S. Government’s Copyright Office, it’s never been easier to apply for copyright. On the website anyone can submit a proposal for a copyrighted phrase and it provides information on laws and regulations.
Trademarked phrases require a separate department, the U.S. Department of Patents and Trademarks, and process. Their website has guidelines for registering a trademark and other important policies. Additionally, both departments allow you to search the copyright and trademark records.With that said, here are 11 surprising copyrighted or trademarked phrased.
1. “That’s Hot.” | Trademarked by Paris Hilton
On T he Simple Life , Paris Hilton was known for saying this iconic catchphrase. The heiress used the saying with the many people she met while exploring rural life with co-star Nicole Richie. The iconic duo spent much of The Simple Life developing their own slang terms. Truly sliving!
2. “The North remembers.” | Copyrighted and trademarked by “Game of Thrones” author George R. R. Martin
Like J.K. Rowling, George R.R. Martin invented a fantasy world that nearly defined the early 2010s for many people. All quotes from the book are protected by copyright and other phrases and visual likenesses from the HBO adaptation are protected by trademark.
3. “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!” | Trademarked by Michael Buffer
Michael Buffer coined this term while working as an announcer for boxing matches and it soon became wildly popular. Buffer has also been booked to set the scene and say his famous phrase at other sporting events and in movies like Rocky .
4. “Hakuna Matata.” | Trademarked by Disney
Disney may own more intellectual property than any other entity on Earth. For example, Disney currently has the phrase “Hakuna Matata” trademarked, which has understandably upset Swahili people and their anti-colonial allies.
This isn’t the first time Disney has been accused of going too far. In 2013, Disney attempted to trademark Day of the Dead , but since Día de Los Muertos is a widely celebrated holiday, even “the mouse” can’t trademark it.
5. “Just a kid from Akron.” | Trademarked by LeBron James
You may recognize this quote from Space Jam 2 , but the elite athlete has been saying that phrase for years. LeBron James went straight from high school basketball to the NBA, and his hometown has been a presence throughout his journey.
James spends much of his time giving back to the community he came from; you can even get this phrase on a t-shirt that benefits his foundation. There are a lot of other shirts out there with this saying, but, due to trademark laws, James could take those makers to court.
6. “BAM!” | Trademarked by Emeril Lagasse
What a throwback! Celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse started saying “BAM!” while filming Emeril: Live in 1997. Lagasse began saying the phrase to keep his crew awake during long days of filming, but it quickly caught on as a popular exclamation beyond the cooking world. The phrase was unique enough and used so widely that Lagasse was approved for a trademark.
7. “This Sick beat”, “Party Like It’s 1989”, & “’Cause We Never Go Out of Style”. | Trademarked by Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift is no stranger to controversy and we love her for that . It’s okay to say these phrases out loud, but putting them on t-shirts, guitar straps or other merchandise could “go down in flames,” as Swift would say. “Taylor’s Version” was trademarked recently, so she and her team are on their A-game!
8. “It’s on like Donkey Kong.” | Trademarked by Nintendo
As the creators of Donkey Kong, who is more than 40 years old at this point , Nintendo has the rights to this popular phrase. Replicating the likeness of Donkey Kong could also put someone in hot water.
9. The word “Superhero.” | Co-owned by DC and Marvel
It’s rare to see Marvel and DC playing nicely together, but the two titans of the comic-book industry both care deeply for their intellectual property. There haven’t been any noteworthy cases of Marvel or DC pursuing legal action against anybody for the use of “Superhero” or its variations, so this trademark is more like an animal marking their territory.
10. “I Pity the Fool.” | Trademarked by Mister T.
People have been repeating Laurence Tureaud’s catchphrases since his run on The A-Team in the 1980s. The phrase was not trademarked until 2011, which is not very aggressive compared to some of these other phrases on this list that were trademarked right away. Strangely enough, the stage name “Mister T.” is not trademarked… at least not yet.
11. “May the Force Be With You.” | Copyrighted and trademarked by George Lucas, Lucasfilm & (now) Disney
Even prior to being purchased by Disney, Star Wars has been controversial in the trademark landscape. “May the Force Be With You” has been protected by copyright since 1977 . Only gaining momentum since then, Star Wars has become quite the copyright empire. Terms like “Jedi”, “Yoda”, “wookies”, “ewoks”, “lightsabers”, “Darth Vader” and (many) more are all trademarked in some way.
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Trademark Transfer Agreement
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What is a Trademark Transfer Agreement?
A trademark transfer agreement is a contract between two parties that governs the ownership of a trademark. This type of legal document generally specifies that one party will transfer or assign all rights to their trademark to another party, an individual, corporation, partnership, or other business entity.
A trademark is any word or symbol used by a company to identify its products and distinguish them from those produced by others. A trademark can include words, phrases, logos, and designs – anything used in commerce to identify goods and services as being from a specific source. For there to have legal effect, it must be filed with the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO).
Trademark Transfer Agreement Sample
Reference : Security Exchange Commission - Edgar Database, EX-10.35 10 dex1035.htm TRADEMARK ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT , Viewed January 28, 2022, View Source on SEC .
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Home Business Assignment Agreement Trademark Assignment Agreement
Trademark Assignment Agreement Template
Use our trademark assignment agreement to transfer a trademark to a new owner.
Updated September 28, 2023 Reviewed by Brooke Davis
A trademark assignment agreement is a written document that transfers a legally recognized word, phrase, symbol, and design (the “trademark”) from the current owner (the “assignor”) to the future owner (the “assignee”).
What Is a Trademark Assignment Agreement?
When is a trademark assignment agreement necessary, consequences of not using a trademark assignment agreement, common situations for using a trademark assignment agreement, what to include in a trademark assignment agreement, changing ownership of federally registered trademarks, trademark assignment agreement sample.
A trademark assignment agreement allows the owner to properly transfer a business’s trademark to another party. Although intangible, a trademark is valuable because customers instantly associate certain qualities with a recognized brand.
The term trademark usually refers to both a trademark and a service mark  . Trademarks identify products or goods, while service marks identify services a company provides.
Remember that a trading name is different from a trademark. A trading name is the actual name under which you conduct your company, while a trademark is some kind of symbol that represents your business.
In addition to words, phrases, or logos, a trademark can include a slogan, scent, logo shape, or a distinctive combination of musical notes. For example, even color can be a trademark if it acts purely as a symbol, according to the 1995 US Supreme Court case Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., Inc. 
A trademark assignment agreement is commonly used to document a trademark or service mark transfer of ownership. A transfer of ownership is often necessary when another person or organization sells or purchases a product or company.
Two types of trademarks can be transferred:
Without a trademark assignment agreement, there is no clear record of who owns the symbol. Trademarks are often part of a company’s valuable assets and should be treated like property.
Some of the consequences of not using this agreement for both assignors and assignees include the following:
These are some common situations in which a trademark assignment agreement is important:
If you don’t want to transfer complete ownership of the mark, consider a trademark license agreement. A license grants the licensee temporary permission to use the trademark in a limited way. For example, a license allows you to use the trademark for a certain amount of time or a particular use or region of the country.
A simple trademark assignment agreement will identify the following essential elements:
- Effective Date: when the trademark is officially transferred to the new owner
- Trademark: a description of the legally recognized word, phrase, symbol, and/or design, including the official trademark number if the mark has been registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”)
- Assignor: the current owner giving up ownership of the mark
- Assignee: the future owner giving money to obtain the mark
- Consideration: how much money the assignee is paying for the mark
- Warranties: a guarantee from the assignor that they’re the proper owner and have the authority to transfer the mark
- Signatures: the signatures of the assignor and the assignee
- Notary Public: the agreement should be notarized to maintain its validity
Ask yourself the following questions when creating a trademark assignment agreement:
- Who currently owns the trademark, and who will be the new owner
- What the trademark consists of and any associated registration numbers
- Where any future disputes will be handled (“Governing Law”)
- When the trademark is officially transferred to the new owner
- Why the assignor has the right to transfer the mark and associated goodwill
- How much will the assignee pay to be the new owner of the mark
If the trademark is federally registered, be sure to record the change of ownership with the USPTO Assignment Recordation Branch . A fee of $40 is required to record an assignment based on the USPTO Fee Schedule .
The USPTO Recordation Form Cover Sheet for Trademarks is strongly recommended when submitting your trademark. Additional questions about registering a trademark assignment with the USPTO may be answered by their Transferring Ownership/Assignments FAQs .
View our sample trademark assignment agreement below so you can get an idea of what it looks like. When you’re ready to create your own, download it in PDF or Word format.
Legal Templates uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
- United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark, patent, or copyright. https://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/basics/trademark-patent-copyright
- United States Supreme Court. Qualitex Co. v. Jacobson Products Co., INC. https://scholar.google.com.tw/scholar_case?case=17905304466595211702&hl=en&as_sdt=6&as_vis=1&oi=scholarr&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjo5eKYnKbJAhXIoJQKHZvIDAsQgAMIGygAMAA
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Back to Trademark ownership
How do I transfer the trademark ownership to my new company?
Written by Igor Demcak
CEO & Legal Mind
To transfer the ownership of a trademark to your new company, you will need to draft an Assignment Agreement that clearly outlines the transfer of ownership from the current owner (which could be you as an individual or your existing company) to the new company. This agreement should include important details such as the trademark being transferred, the parties involved, the effective date of the transfer, and any terms or conditions of the transfer. Once the agreement is prepared, all relevant parties should provide their consent and sign the document.
The next step is to file the Assignment Agreement with the appropriate trademark office or registry by submitting a trademark assignment application. This application will include details about the trademark, the current owner, the new owner (your new company), and the executed Assignment Agreement. After the transfer is recorded by the trademark office, update the trademark records to reflect the new ownership details and inform relevant parties about the ownership change.
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Transfer the ownership of your trademark in 4 simple steps.
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Stories of our clients: ForZet, architecture and design studio
All architects have their own unique style. Successful projects speak for the architect and provide the most effective marketing strategy. In the field of architecture, it is the name of the architect which communicates quality and provides the basis for the brand’s success. Learn more about the story of ForZet, an architecture and design studio that has allowed Trama to help their brand protection efforts.
How to protect a Mobile App with a Trademark?
People all over the world are using smartphones and tablets. As mobile app usage grows in popularity, the number of app downloads worldwide increases as well. The global mobile application market size was estimated at USD 187.58 billion in 2021 and is expected to reach USD 206.73 billion in 2022. The trend shows that more and more people prefer to use mobile devices over the traditional system, which means more businesses are transitioning their services to mobile-first software solutions. Trademark registration offers an effective mechanism for protecting the uniqueness of this vital asset of any business, including mobile apps.
Trademark Registration: DIY vs Professional Service
Filing for trademark registration is something anybody can do with a single online application. Many business owners, however, decide to wait with trademark registration because the process can appear quite complicated at first sight. Applying without a legal representative can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Mistakes and errors are easy to make and can lead to weak trademark protection or the rejection of your trademark registration altogether.
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How to Transfer a Trademark
A trademark transfer occurs when the rights to a trademark are sold or licensed from one owner to another. Such an agreement can be beneficial indeed to both the seller and buyer if structured properly. The trademark transfer can be organized so that the terms are governed on a temporary, contractual basis or permanently. A trademark transfer allows the transferor to further monetize his brand in ways that might not be readily available with current resources. Trademark transfers are complex in that they can encompass a variety of formulations including full and/or partial trademark assignments.
How to Transfer a Trademark: Step by Step
Trademark transfers: understanding the trademark assignment vehicle.
Trademark Assignments Are Powerful
A trademark assignment is a legal tool by which an owner of a trademark may “assign” his rights and interest in a trademark or service mark to another. The “Assignor”, or entity which transfers the mark to the new entity, or “assignee”, is accordingly compensated for the worth of the trademark. Critically, assignments are not mere licenses to use the given trademark – the trademark assignment quite literally transfers the right of ownership in the trademark. Right – this is a very serious matter.
Trademark Assignments – Nuanced Structure, Nuanced Result
There are few different types of trademark assignments, including a complete assignment, a partial assignment, an assignment with goodwill and an assignment without goodwill. A complete assignment is when all rights are transferred. Essentially, this leaves the former owner without any rights or royalties on the trademark. A partial assignment is when a trademark transfer is performed for a specific product or service. In this trademark assignment structure, you are able to retain rights and royalties to the majority of your business. An assignment with goodwill is a trademark transfer that allows a manufacturer to produce your product. An assignment without goodwill is when a specific product or service is sold to a third party to manufacture an unrelated product.
Trademark Transfers and Trademark Assignments – Weigh Your Options Carefully
Ask yourself, what’s the end goal of the Trademark Transfer and Assignment?
When considering a trademark transfer it is important to weigh the pros and cons of licensing structures vs. permanent TM sales. Do you simply want to grow your business by working with a manufacturer who can mass produce your product? Do you want to perform a trademark transfer in which a third party has control over a specific part of your business, or do you want to permanently transfer all rights and royalties of your trademark to a new owner? Hopefully, you’ll find what trademark transfer agreement is right for you.
Choose Carefull – Your Business Depends on it
Every client is different. Every Situation is Unique. Contact our trademark lawyers to discuss your particular trademark portfolio to learn more.