Trademarking a Dragon Shout May Be a Good ThingThere I stood, before the Greybeards, ready to learn the truth of my existence as a Dragonborn. Einarth stared down at the floor, and thus spake "Ro." Strange runes glowed upon the stones at my feet.


The last one looked like ™.

If ZeniMax Media is going to trademark a thu'um—in this case, the most recognizable Dragon Shout from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, might as well go whole hog, right? Just put that ™ notice into the game. Right there, at High Hrothgar. Hell, go ahead and trademark iis slen nus, and strun bah qo and feim zii gron and all the rest.

This week, we learned that ZeniMax, the parent company of Bethesda Games, filed several trademark applications for "Fus Ro Dah," covering things from computer games to mouse pads to cell phone ringtones, bookbags, "fleece pullovers," and, of course, "bobble head dolls," another meme product for which Bethesda titles are very well known.

"Fus" is the first word your character speaks when he or she learns the powerful, mysterious heritage that forms the backstory of last year's smash hit role-playing game. Since the other two words were first learned just after the game's November 2011 release, the phrase has become a punchline even more powerful than the shout of unrelenting force. Thus, the trademark filing. If Zenimax didn't act quickly to protect that trademark, well, someone might just go crazy with it and use it in a thousand YouTube videos or something and wouldn't that be awful.

Yes, it sounds silly, but it's grounded in legal reasoning, and in the age of Internet memes, companies have to pay highly educated attorneys to go file claims on phrases like "Fus Ro Dah" and "It's On Like Donkey Kong," because once viral spread becomes mainstream recongition, it'll end up in a Super Bowl ad. Don't believe me? Ask the Sexy Sax Man. I'm sure this Vitamin Water spot, first broadcast during the NCAA basketball tournament last month, did more than enough to scare ZeniMax's lawyer-mans into action on "Fus Ro Dah," for which a trademark was filed on April 4.

But here's an idea for Zenimax: Why not also trademark "an Arrow to the Knee"? That would do two things: Protect your brand and perform a public service. No one would scoff at your claim to that trademark, or write tongue-in-cheek posts about it, or rant against takedowns of YouTube videos that dared to speak it. They would praise those takedowns. They would thank you, because we're all sick to death of the insipid me-too jokes cribbing off that line five months after it was introduced.

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