The phrase “bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea” belongs exclusively to funk legend George Clinton, a panel of federal judges ruled this week.
Bridgeport Music, the company that administers Clinton’s work, sued Universal Music Group for copyright infringement over those words in 2001. At issue: the 1998 release of “D.O.G. in Me,” a song by hip-hop and R&B group Public Announcement, one of Universal’s artists. In the song, Bridgeport claimed, Public Announcement wrongfully used the words “bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea,” as well as a repetitive use of the word “dog” in ways that infringe on Clinton’s copyright.
Clinton and two other songwriters first penned the phrase in 1982 while writing “Atomic Dog,” one of Clinton’s best-known works.
A federal jury agreed with Bridgeport and awarded the company about $89,000 in damages. The amount was based on the sales of Public Announcement’s album All Work,No Play, which included the song. Universal Music appealed the ruling, but this week the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the original decision.