Darth Vader's caped getup and face mask is spooky and all, but there's nothing like the grisly, mechanical sound of his breath. Which is why Lucasfilm keeps a close eye on who uses it—even going so far as to trademark 234 seconds of it with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
According to the USPTO, this is what's called a "soundmark," and it's more common than you'd think. In paperwork posted today to Twitter, we get a glimpse at what's involved, from an application filed by Lucasfilm in 2009 to the actual "specimen" itself, sent to the USPTO on a compact disc for filing.
In the production company's filing, it explains what types of uses this Vader soundmark will apply to, listing "Costumes including masks; voice altering toys," as well as "toy computers; handheld playthings; dashboard driver figurines." In other words, any knockoff Star Wars toy companies will need to lawyer up before using Vader's iconic gasping in their wares.
There's even a little reference to the sound engineer who created Vader's mechanical breath, Ben Burtt. In a section of the trademark filing entitled "miscellaneous statement," Lucasfilm's attorneys describe the sound as "rhythmic mechanical human breathing created by breathing through a scuba tank regulator." Here's a great little interview with Burtt describing the process of designing the sound—and how the first experimental mixes made Vader sound like a "moving operating room."
You can listen to the final sound filed with the trademark—all 3:54 seconds of it—here. [USPTO]
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