30 Things You Won't Believe Are Trademarked
Using these words, sounds, and even colors could land you in a lawsuit.
Can you own a certain shade of a color? Or, perhaps, lay claim to a specific sound? Well, if you ask T-Mobile, Reese's, or George Lucas, the answer is yes, you absolutely can. In fact, there are countless phrases, images, colors, and noises—some of which you likely encounter on a daily basis—that are actually someone's intellectual property, and they have the paperwork to prove it. So, before you find yourself on the wrong side of a cease-and-desist, know what surprising trademarks actually exist for things that you'd never expect to have them.
The phrase "That's hot"
Reality TV-star-turned-DJ Paris Hilton made such an impression with her catchphrase, "That's hot," that she decided to trademark it. The socialite was so adamant about maintaining her intellectual property that she even sued Hallmark for use of the phrase on a greeting card.
Photos of the Eiffel Tower at night
Trying to sell your photo of the Eiffel Tower at night might just end up costing you in the long run. While the tower itself is part of the public domain (so feel free to snap away during daylight hours), its lighting display is a separate work of art—and a copyrighted one, at that. If you did want to sell your nighttime image of the magnificent illumination, you would need to request permission from the Société d'Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel, which runs the famous landmark.
Usain Bolt's "lightning bolt" gesture
Surprisingly enough, even a gesture can be trademarked. In addition to trademarking his name, runner Usain Bolt has gone so far as to trademark his signature "lightning bolt" victory move.
The Law & Order sound
That "dun dun" sound that precedes every episode of Law & Order was created by composer Mike Post, and its trademark is owned by NBCUniversal Media.
The orange color on your peanut butter cup's packaging isn't something you will see on any other food wrapper. If you flip that treat over, you'll see that Reese's wrappers clearly state the "orange background color is a registered trademark."
The word "baggies"
You may use the word "baggies" as a generic name for plastic sandwich bags, but it's actually a trademarked term. "Baggies" is a registered trademark of the Pactiv Corporation, which owns Hefty and is a subsidiary of Reynolds Group Holdings—the folks behind Reynolds Wrap.
The phrase "Let's get ready to rumble"
Boxing and wrestling announcer Michael Buffer knew he had a good idea on his hands when he came up with the phrase "Let's get ready to rumble!" Buffer trademarked the phrase in 1992 and has reportedly made more than $400 million from licensing its use in the decades since.
The word "face"
While staking claim to the word "face" might seem like overkill, that's exactly what Mark Zuckerberg managed to do following the success of Facebook. The word "face" is now a trademark of Facebook, but only when applied by potential social media competitors.
That bright pink on the signage at your local T-Mobile store is more than just a pretty color. T-Mobile is so adamant about magenta being its trademarked property that the telecom giant has issued cease-and-desists to multiple companies for using it without their permission.
The sound of Darth Vader's breathing
Did you know you can even trademark the sound of someone's breath? Well, if the individual in question is Darth Vader, that is. That's right: Lucasfilm has actually trademarked Anakin Skywalker's famous under-the-helmet inhale and exhale—which was created by breathing through a scuba regulator.
The phrase "It's on like Donkey Kong"
It may come as no surprise that Donkey Kong is a Nintendo trademark. That said, even die-hard fans of the gaming brand might be shocked to discover that "It's on like Donkey Kong," a phrase popular among '90s TV characters and sorority girls getting ready to spar, is also trademarked by Nintendo.
The term "superhero"
While it may seem like a catchall for anyone with special powers and a cape, the term "superhero" is actually a trademarked phrase. However, somewhat interestingly (and to the dismay of fans who may prefer one company over the other), it's co-owned by long-time rivals Marvel and DC Comics.
Apple's slide-to-unlock function
The slide-to-unlock gesture you used to unlock previous versions of the iPhone was more than just a cool feature—it's also a patent owned by Apple. The company even sued Samsung for $119.6 million for using the a similar function and, after a long battle in court, won the decision.
And the "chime" sound on its devices
Apple isn't shy about trademarking anything associated with their products—and that includes the sounds they make. In addition to the swipe-to-unlock feature, the company also has a trademark for the sound you hear when you turn on one of its devices.
The term "realtor"
Though the term is frequently used as a synonym for a real-estate agent, "realtor" is actually a trademarked term. Try using it in the wrong context and the National Association of Realtors might just come calling.
Zippo's click sound
You know that satisfying sound you hear when you flick open a Zippo lighter to ignite your favorite candle—and then again when you flick it closed? Yeah, they own that. The brand says the sound is so specific to their products that they secured a trademark for it in 2018.
The word "onesie"
Think "onesie" is a generic term for a baby's one-piece garment? Think again. That name is actually the trademarked property of the Gerber Childrenswear Company.
That little blue box better be from Tiffany. While it's often imitated, that widely recognized shade of blue is specific to the jewelry giant and legally trademarked.
Boise State's blue football field
You'll want to think twice before installing blue turn on your local football field. The blue turf is a signature of Boise State University's football stadium—in addition to being the first school to have a non-green field, they also have a trademark on the turf.
Ever wonder what the difference is between ping-pong and table tennis? The former is trademarked by games company Parker Brothers, and the latter is a generic term for the same game.
The phrase "This sick beat"
You may think your beats are pretty sick, but don't publish that thought anywhere Taylor Swift might see it. The songstress trademarked the phrase "this sick beat" from her hit single "Shake It Off," as well as "Nice to meet you, where you been?" and a handful of other utterances from her album 1989.
Whether it's in your drink or being used in a science class, if you have referred to that solid carbon dioxide as "dry ice," you were at one point using a term that had been the trademark of the Dry Ice Corporation of America from 1925 to 1989, when it officially expired.
Rapper 50 Cent's name
Can you really trademark a price? Well, you can if you're 50 Cent and it's used as your name without prior permission. The rapper even went so far as to sue Taco Bell for using his name and image in an advertisement that suggested he change his moniker to 79 Cent, 89 Cent, or 99 Cent in exchange for a donation to the charity of his choice.
America's favorite blonde-haired doll not only has a trademarked name, but even her favorite color is legally protected. And using the color—officially called Pantone 219C—is something that Mattel won't let you get away with. The brand even sued RCA Records for using the color in the packaging for Aqua's single "Barbie Girl"—the song's title and lyric also got the band in hot water.
The phrase "Just a kid from Akron"
LeBron James not only owns his opponents on the basketball court, he's staked claim on a number of his signature phrases, too—most notably: "Just a kid from Akron."
The word "Bam!"
It's totally fine to holler "Bam!" while whipping up a fine-dining feast on your stove at home, just don't try to use Emeril Lagasse's signature shout to sell any cooking supplies. That's because the celebrity chef trademarked the utterance as it relates to kitchenware.
Guy Fieri's name
Food Network star Guy Fieri trademarked his name under International Class 30, meaning you can't use his moniker in association with virtually any food product. Oh, and he's got one for the phrase "flavor town" too.
The New York Stock Exchange bell ring
Don't try to use the sound of the New York Stock Exchange bell or you might end up paying dearly for it. The bell's iconic clang is is owned by the NYSE, as are the capitalized versions of the phrases: "Opening Bell" and "Closing Bell."