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I am not sure what I would file this email I got today under … corporate hubris? Trying to cash in on a decade old saying? Misguided legalistic idiocy? I’m just really not sure – please help me out in the comments!

Anyway, today we get word that Nintendo has filed a trademark claim on a phrase they didn’t make up, didn’t attempt to control, and have let enter the popular lexicon for nearly two decades … because it uses one of their trademarked properties.

Here is the email I got this morning:

Nintendo Files Official Trademark for Catchphrase ‘It’s On Like Donkey Kong’

In honor of the upcoming Nov. 21 launch of Donkey Kong Country™ Returns for the Wii™ console, Nintendo has filed a request with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to trademark the pop-culture phrase “It’s on like Donkey Kong.” For those unfamiliar with the term, “It’s on like Donkey Kong” is an old, popular Nintendo phrase that has a number of possible interpretations depending on how it’s used. In addition to Nintendo’s use, it has been used in popular music, television and film over the years, pointing to Donkey Kong’s status as an enduring pop-culture icon and video game superstar.

Donkey Kong™ is one of the oldest and most recognizable video game characters. He has been a pop-culture icon since the launch of his 1981 self-titled arcade game. Donkey Kong again rose to prominence in the 1994 Super NES™ game Donkey Kong Country. His new game, Donkey Kong Country Returns, marks his triumphant return in a new side-scrolling adventure with new challenges amid a beautiful setting. The game features the first simultaneous cooperative game-play mode for the series, with one player controlling Donkey Kong and the other controlling his agile pal, Diddy Kong™.

On Nov. 21, It’s on like Donkey Kong™!

This news has spread pretty quickly, as has the sense of bemusement. On Twitter Wil Wheaton tweeted the following:

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And the CNN report noting the trademark filing was also picked up on Consumerist, who linked to perhaps the first commonly known usage, by Ice Cube from the video of Now I Gotta Wet’Cha from his 1992 record The Predator:
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Wow … that is so dated now it is funny for how serious it takes itself – and the lyrics are just awful:

It’s on like Donkey Kong.
You wanted that fast buck
Now I gotta light that ass up.

Hehe … yeah. Anyway …

Of course, a few years before that young rapper ‘Fresh Prince’ (now simply Will Smith) professed his love for Donkey Kong in ‘Human Video Game’. Maybe that is where Ice Cube got the idea?

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Aside from the obvious and oft-mentioned intent of protecting the phrase so they can use it everywhere in support of their upcoming new Donkey Kong game, one cannot wonder if they hope to also gain control (and revenue) for other usages, such as the commercial a couple of years ago between the Williams sisters and Manning brothers, and in the American Pie franchise of movies, and who knows where else?

Good luck to Nintendo on stuffing that Genie back in the bottle …


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