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Volume 1929

MGM Yell: Copyright ERB, Inc. ~ Not for use without permissionRKO Yell: Copyright ERB, Inc. ~ Not for use without permission
Click to hear MGM & RKO yells
Alt. Yell 1 ~ Alt Yell 2
Evolution of the Tarzan "Yell"
Part II: Battle Cry
Part I is featured in ERBzine 1482

". . .  a significant example of U.S. protection of unconventional marks."
From the Fross Zelnick Lehrman & Zissu, P.C. Website

Legal firm, Fross Zelnick, has crafted unique and innovative strategies to protect clients' most valuable intellectual property assets, including the legendary TARZAN yell. When the Estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs entered into a U.S. licensing agreement for a TARZAN action figure toy, Fross Zelnick urged its client to seek trademark registration not only for the name TARZAN but also for the well-known TARZAN yell.

As most trademark practitioners know, it is extremely difficult to secure a trademark registration for sounds, particularly in relation to toys. Sound trademarks are more commonly registered for services. By working closely with the client, the firm was able to gather the necessary evidence of "fame and acquired distinctiveness" to persuade officials at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that the TARZAN yell was sufficiently distinctive to merit its own registration.

The registration was granted, under Registration No. 2,210,506, and is often cited as a significant example of U.S. protection of unconventional marks.

© Copyright 2007
. . . BUT. . .

Reportedly a recent ruling by the European trademark office (OHIM)
does now allow an applicant to attach a sound file.
A second application supported by a sound file has apparently been filed.

See the actual EU trademark authority decision document in at:

The story has been reported worldwide but the most widely read has been the one appearing in the London Times on November 1, 2007. Despite the recent EU ruling, a recent re-filing includes a sound file, as allowed by new EU rules, which should make it easier for Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc. to eventually obtain a European trademark.

ERBzine supplied images and background information to the editors. They linked to our ERBzine feature - THE STORY OF THE TARZAN YELL in ERBzine 1482

Anyone can ape Tarzan as court rules his yell is public property in Europe
The Times ~ November 1, 2007
Tarzan’s famous cry could summon animals from the jungle but appears to have had little influence over the beasts of European bureaucracy. After a ten-year legal battle the apeman’s distinctive yell has been rejected as an EU registered trademark. With a fortune to be made from ringtones, advertising and computer games, the literary estate of Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author who created Tarzan, is keen to protect the sound. But the EU trademark authority has ruled that, although it is possible to protect sounds that can be represented by musical notes, Tarzan’s cry does not qualify. The application described the yell as “consisting of five distinct phases, namely sustain, followed by ululation, followed by sustain, but at a higher frequency, followed by ululation, followed by sustain at the starting frequency”. It even included a spectrogram of the cry, which dates from the first “talking” Tarzan film starring Johnny Weissmuller.

But the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) (Trade Marks and Designs) ruled that the graphic did not clearly explain the sound. “It is impossible to recognise from the image as filed whether the sound phenomena depicted therein is a human voice or something else, eg, the tune of violins or bells or a dog’s bark,” it said. “Nobody would be able to hum the Tarzan yell from the spectrogram and nobody reads spectrograms for entertainment.” Stephen James, a partner in R G C Jenkins & Co, the London-based intellectual-property firm that lodged the application, said: “I have spent the past ten years trying to get Tarzan’s yell trademarked but the difficulty has been putting a sound down on paper. “We say that anybody, from the age of 5 to 105, who heard that sound would say it is Tarzan. There is still a lot of interest from people who want to license the Tarzan name and also to use the yell.”

Mr James has made a fresh application that includes a sound file, as allowed under new EU rules. This is now under consideration, and he must wait to see if there are any objections to its registration. Weissmuller said that his yell had been inspired by yodelling and that he won a yodelling contest as a boy. However, MGM often claimed that its sound department had augmented the actor’s shout with various animal sounds. Other legends claim that an operatic tenor was used to record part of the sequence.

Call of the wild
— The first time that Edgar Rice Burroughs refers to Tarzan’s yell is when the hero slays Kerchak, leader of the band of Great Apes that had killed his parents:
— “Withdrawing the knife that had so often rendered him master of far mightier muscles than his own, Tarzan of the Apes placed his foot upon the neck of his vanquished enemy, and once again, loud through the forest rang the fierce, wild cry of the conqueror. And thus came the young Lord Greystoke into the kingship of the Apes”
— Actors who played Tarzan included Elmo Lincoln, the first screen Tarzan; Johnny Weissmuller, winner of five Olympic swimming gold medals and the first speaking Tarzan in 1932; and Gordon Weschkul, whose 19in biceps got him the role after 200 others had been tested

Scream like Tarzan and win DVDs
Enter our contest for the most authentic jungle call and land yourself a Tarzan film box set plus 9 other DVDs, including Out of Africa and the Last King of Scotland. To enter call 0845 124 0 125. Leave your name and contact telephone number and your "Tarzan jungle call". The winner will be the person who, in the judge's opinion, provides the most authentic call. The prize comes courtesy of HMV, the UK & Ireland's leading DVD specialist, offering the widest range of films across 240 stores nationwide and online at with free home delivery.

It's A Jungle Out There
Tarzan's yodel is surely not the only calling card which merits a trademark
The Times ~ November 1, 2007
First Tarzan was robbed of his unique signature look when Arnold Schwarzenegger became the second muscled man to appear in public dressed in skimpy leopardprint briefs, glistening with baby oil, and communicating in an indecipherable tongue. Now the jungle-dweller's creator has lost a trademark battle to claim Tarzan's ululating yodel as his alone. So Tarzan's distinctive animalistic yell joins all the other sounds that might deserve their own trademark, but which may now be aped by all.

These include the subtle screeching noise made by Gordon Brown performing a U-turn on calling a snap general election; or the gentle whooshing sound a prince makes when rushing from his mother's Norfolk estate, where two protected birds of prey have been shot, to attend a low-key official function in Portsmouth. Then there is the barely audible pitter-patter sound of the feet of bookbuyers stampeding to purchase a copy of Anne Enright's Man Booker-winner, The Gathering, in their hunger to read yet another novel about a miserable Irish family.

And what about the “yak-yak-yak” warble of Heather Mills maintaining a discreet silence over her divorce settlement negotiations? Or the famous “bong” sound of Sir Trevor McDonald bouncing back to host a revived News at Ten as ITV tries to claw back credibility after its phone-in scandals? Or the sonorous nasal rattle of someone dozing through an Alistair Darling speech? Then there is the distinctive grunting and squealing of our beloved tennis players — the Sharapova Shriek has already been copyrighted, so watch your mouth on court.

The Greatest Tarzan Yells of All Time
The Times ~ November 1, 2007

If you're planning to enter our Scream like Tarzan! competition, here is your homework:

The Tarzan call has a long and chequered history, (Time cites ERBzine 1482 here) including

1. The Classic Weissmuller
Swimmer Johnny Weissmuller played Tarzan in five films. He often claimed to have invented the Tarzan call, although later admitted it was created in the studio by merging together several different voices.  He's seen here in a strange US advertisement for good parenting.

2. Baltimora: Tarzan Boy
Perhaps the Tarzan call's lowest point came when it was used by Italian dance producers Baltimora on their 1985 hit Tarzan Boy.

3. Tarzan: Lord of the Jungle
If you were old enough to be watching kids TV in 1976, then you'll probably remember this long-running cartoon series. The opening credits end with a classic Weissmuller.

4. Tarzan before Weissmuller
This clip from the 1929 film 'Tarzan the Tiger' has - at 4:25 - a pre-Weissmuller Tarzan cry. No yodelling, no flair, just a weird man-scream. The film was made silent, with various sound effects later dubbed on before release.

5. Who's Line is it Anyway?
This US episode of the improv comedy panel game proves that doing a convincing Tarzan call is much harder than it sounds.

6. Tarzan in Istanbul
It sounds like the punchline to a bad joke, but Tarzan Istanbul'da is a real film, made in 1952, with a very Wiessmulleresque call at 3:00.

Bonus: Tarzan my Tarzan
There's no Tarzan call, but this scene from the hugely successful Bollywood blockbuster 'Adventures of Tarzan' will change the way you think about Tarzan forever.

Lawrence comes to Tarzan's aid
4BarRest ~ November
 Composer Phil Lawrence recently came to the aid of the man with most famous jungle call in the world. A call out of the blue from American news giant CBS recently led to composer Phil Lawrence having to race across London to be interviewed for a 5 minute spot on their prime time news slot. The news item came about after Phil's musicologist services were used to explain how the famous Wiesmuller 'Tarzan' call could be patented or copyrighted.
Tarzan call
Phil told 4BR: "They found me via the net as I worked in advertising from 1992 to 1997, I knocked out around 130 tracks for products such as, Nike, The Times and Classic fm. I learned a lot very quickly about using existing music tracks, sound-a-likes and copyright. CBS wanted my opinion on the Edgar Rice-Burrows case of trying to copyright the Tarzan call and make it legally tight for their keeping."
Diplomatic skills
Phil's diplomatic skills came in handy as he tried to explain the potenital minefield that surrounds the use of music (and Tarzan calls) that are now appearing as ring tones. Hopefully the Americans understood his accent and Tarzan's famous call can now be heard in all its glory, without the aid of the lawyers!

Francisco Camas comes to Tarzan's aid
Francisco M. Camas is a physicist and researcher in the Spanish National Biotechnology Centre (CNB) and also a professional musician.

"I've just read the news about the difficulties with the patent of the 'Tarzan Yell' by the European Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market. If I remember correctly, the graphs of the normalized envelope and
the spectrogram presented by R.G.C JENKINS & CO in this office are not considered to fulfil the 'self-contained' requirement.

"I'm just working on scientific software that can extract from any monophonic sound, through several steps, a very accurate score with conventional notation on 5-lines staves, including several specific - although also conventional - microtonal music symbols because the 'Tarzan Yell' is not tempered in the semi tonal scale. Thus, the final score I've created fulfils all the requirements of any patent office.

"In order to test aurally the accuracy of this score, I built from it artificial midi-sounds. As you know, midi-files can be performed by a lot of synthesizers and computer music software. Thus, you can ultimately hear the 'Tarzan Yell' played by many different midi-instruments in the following mp3 sound files:
Tarzan Yell on Clarinet
Tarzan Yell on Oboe
Tarzan Yell on Pan Flute
These artificial sounds can be compared with the original recording:
Original Tarzan Yell
You will notice how how the artificial sounds keep all the features of the latter."

Yours sincerely,
Francisco M. Camas
Spanish National Biotechnology Centre (CNB)
Madrid (Spain)

Re: The claim that the yell was not a human voice at all. Instead it was a combination of five notes on a sound track; a raspy violin string, a camel's moan, a soprano's high note, a dog's growl, and Weissmuller's voice.

One day Sol Lesser met Burroughs for lunch at the Hollywood Athletic Club, and they discussed the yell. "I don't know how that story got around," Lesser said. "The yell comes straight from nowhere but Weissmuller's chest." 

ERB grinned. "I'm glad you told me," he said. "I myself have been spreading that other story for years, every time I've been interviewed, thinking it was true."

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