A sound can be registered as a trade mark if it can be written in musical notation. But a sound like Tarzan's yell can also be registered if a graphical representation is accompanied by an MP3 file, according to Europe's trade mark registry.
The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) issued a clarification this month after widespread coverage of its recent decision to reject an application for the famous call of Edgar Rice Burrough's fictional character.
The application had included two pictures said to represent the sound of the jungle resident's cry, one an image of a wave form representation of the sound, the other a spectrogram of the frequencies of the yell.
It came with a text description: "sustain, followed by ululation, followed by sustain, but at a higher frequency, followed by ululation, followed by sustain at the starting frequency…"
That application, originally made in 2004, was rejected. Upholding the rejection in 2007, the Board of Appeal wrote, "Nobody can read a spectrogram as such."
But OHIM has now explained that Tarzan's yell is already registered as a mark. Another application, also made in 2004, included the yell in musical notation. That was accepted for registration, OHIM said.