— So, you want to trademark a famous TV or movie line? Is that your final answer? Go ahead, make my day. Just do it.
You can call Donald Trump greedy, but not because he's trying to trademark "You're fired!" — the catchphrase he uses each time a wannabe mogul is booted from The Apprentice.
Attempts have been made to trademark just about every famous catchphrase, and they're often owned by businesses with no connection to the stars or studios that made the line famous.
Remember Flo the waitress' big line from the 1970s TV show Alice? Various companies have registered trademarks to emblazon "Kiss My Grits" on jelly jars, potato chip bags, cooking aprons and even slip-resistant footwear. Ironically, "Kiss My Grits" has yet to appear on any cereal box — let alone honest-to-goodness grits.
Riley’s Three-Peat Four-Sight
Take a look at the 218,000 trademark applications filed last year with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, and you'll get a little insight into trendy America and what passes as intellectually property.
The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq gave rise to dozens of trademarks, including "Shock and Awe" coffee mugs, sweat bands and condoms. These should not be confused with "Baghdad Bob" hot sauce for infidels and "Baghdad Bob" dolls, created in the image of the former Iraqi information minister.
Some celebs collect a nice income from their trademark quips. Michael Buffer, the voice of wrestling, owns his catchphrase, "Let's Get Ready to Rumble," and any unauthorized use of that expression will result in a legal wrangling.
In 1989, when the Los Angeles Lakers were trying for their third straight NBA title, coach Pat Riley registered the rights to "three-peat." Riley's squad lost to the Detroit Pistons. However, thanks to Michael Jordan, Riley cashed in on "three-peat" royalties when the Chicago Bulls won three straight titles in a row, in 1993 and again in 1998.
Riley was no longer coaching the Lakers in 2002 when his old team finally three-peated, but industry sources estimated that $3 million in merchandise would net Riley about $150,000 in royalties. Whining Over Trump Wine
Trump wants to slap "You're Fired!" on clothing and casino souvenirs. But it's increasingly difficult to earn a trademark. Several other companies have already registered the expression, including a Chicago-based potter who has been marketing her own "You're Fired" ceramics since 1997.
Other would-be entrepreneurs are hoping to register the rights for "You're Fired!" wine and "You're Fired!" luggage. Should they be successful, we can only assume what Trump will be telling his attorney, whether or not he has a trademark on the phrase.
With Trump in legal limbo, let's take a look at how some of Hollywood's most favorite catchphrases have been trademarked. 1. Heeeeeere's Johnny: Former Tonight Show announcer Ed McMahon saw his famous "Heeeeeere's Johnny!" introduction morph into Jack Nicholson's psychotic version in The Shining. But here's something even scarier — the "Here's Johnny" portable chemical toilet.
The trademarked toilet, introduced by a Michigan company in 1976, failed to be a royal flush, but it might have been a good place to dispose of your "Here's Johnny" cologne — which was trademarked two years later — and also quickly disappeared. 2. Eat My Shorts: In 1987, two years before The Simpsons hit the air, America had already heralded the new era with "Eat My Shorts" underwear.
Eat My Shorts Inc., a clothes manufacturer in Florida, may have jumped on the Bart bandwagon early, when Springfield's golden boy was making appearances on The Tracey Ullman Show.
Eat My Shorts shouldn't be confused with another trademarked property — Incredible Edible Undies. The company ceased production two years later, no doubt the work of notorious C. Montgomery Burns, the Donald Trump of Springfield, who is currently investigating the trademark for his own Trumpy catchphrase, "Excellent!" 3. Good Grief:
What does Charlie Brown say when the little red-haired girl won't talk to him, when his dog Snoopy thinks he's Joe Cool, or when Lucy drives him crazy as the 5-cent psychiatrist? He shouts, "Good Grief!"
But what would Charlie Brown say if he knew that "Good Grief" has also been trademarked by a funeral service company, which markets wholesale and retail urns and other funeral and bereavement accessories?
Poor Linus must be double-clutching his security blanket as Schroeder plays "Amazing Grace" on a toy piano.
4. Say Goodnight, Gracie: George Burns and Gracie Allen's signature joke became lingerie, thanks to a Palisades, Calif., entrepreneur who trademarked the comic quip in 1997.
For those who forget: Gracie played the scatterbrained blonde. To get her off stage, George would tell her, "Say goodnight, Gracie." To which Gracie always replied, "Goodnight, Gracie."
Jokes in the bedroom are risky, and three years later the public said goodnight to this Gracie scheme. The trademark lapsed, apparently because not so many women want to play dumb, even if Burns always described Allen as the brains behind their act.
5. Play It Again, Sam: "Play It Again, Sam" has been trademarked over the years as a phone answering device, a karaoke machine, a logo for children's clothing, and even a breakfast at Denny's.
In fact, "Play It Again, Sam," has been used by just about everybody except Humphrey Bogart, at least not in Casablanca. Groucho Marx actually originated the line as an homage to Bogie in A Night in Casablanca, and the line also served as the title of a Woody Allen movie.
6. Beam Me Up, Scotty: Paramount Pictures owns the rights to Capt. Kirk's famous line from Star Trek. But other companies have been able to register "Beam Me Up" — with no mention of Scotty — on everything from slot machines to kitchen lighting.
One group put the fear of God into Capt. Kirk, with the trademark "Beam Me Up, Lord."
The catchphrase of another Star Trek commander, Jean-Luc Picard, is also the trademark of a consulting company in Virginia called Make It So Inc., which helps high-tech startups boldly go where no capitalist has gone before.
7. Hasta La Vista, Baby: Arnold Schwarzenegger exploded onto the political scene last year, and now, a fireworks company in Ohio calls itself "Hasta La Vista, Baby!"
One of Clint Eastwood's big lines from the Dirty Harry series — "Go ahead, make my day" — ended up emblazoned on backpacks — just the perfect gift for the school bully.
These days, Mr. T pities the fool who doesn't have a good intellectual property lawyer. His "Cut your jibba jabba" and other signature lines have been trademarked for everything from bumper stickers to trash bags.
Last year, Mr. T sued retail giant Best Buy for allegedly using him without authorization in a TV commercial. Best Buy claims it legitimately licensed movie footage from Rocky.
"You use my name, you draw off of my heat. You picked me because I bring the juice. I worked hard to create this image," the TV tough guy told The Associated Press.
"What are they gonna do next?" he asked. "Insert a wimpy guy in Gone With the Wind with Clark Gable?"
Perhaps it's time for a smart litigator to open the "Yo, Adrian" law firm for exploited TV stars.
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Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.