Trademarks and nouns - how often?

Subject: Trademarks and nouns - how often?
From: "Hart, Geoff" <Geoff-H -at- MTL -dot- FERIC -dot- CA>
To: "'Techwr-L (E-mail)'" <TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>, "'Jill Waite'" <jwaite -at- criticaldevices -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 6 Oct 2000 08:50:41 -0400

Jill Waite is grappling with trademarks:

<<In printed documentation: Can we also omit descriptor following trademark,
after first and most prominent usage? For example, the descriptor for
Windows NT(R) or Windows(R) 95, 98, or 2000 is "operating system." Once
I've defined it and used it correctly the first and/or most prominent time,
can I thereafter say merely "Windows" or "Windows NT"? It
strikes me as odd, because that's a little bit how Kleenex got into

Interesting question. Not being a laywer, I bow to the authority of They Who
Pay the Expensive Lawyers in such matters: Microsoft, Corel, and Adobe (MS
DOS, CorelDraw and PageMaker, respectively) do not use the trademark symbols
in the bodies of their manuals, nor do they refer to themselves as "MS DOS
operating system", "CorelDraw graphics software" or "PageMaker page-design
software". Not after the "we own this, so there!" page or the cover of the
manual, leastwise. (That's a quick glance through all three manuals; they
may inconsistently use the full legal writ elsewhere than where I browsed.)
Since this actually represents the spirit of the law (don't use someone
else's trademark and pretend it's yours) rather than the letter ("if we
weren't so anal about enforcing this, we couldn't bill $300/hour), this
represents a rare victory of common sense over the strict letter of the law.

Interestingly, when you consider the purpose behind why we should "use
trademarks as adjectives, not nouns", the whole issue comes down to one of
common sense. If the noun form acts as a unique identifier, it's not a
problem; nobody is going to say "I pagemakered [laid out] this document in
the latest release of Quark before sending it to the printer", "Adobe
Illustrator is an example of a category of software known as CorelDraw
[graphics] tools", or "I was down at the discount computer shop yesterday
and they've got a whole slew of new Linux microsofts [operating systems]".
But it's easy to blow your nose on kleenex, make a xerox copy on your Canon
copier, and so on. So the real problems arise when your name is likely to be
taken as a generic rather than a specific, and in most of the documentation
we do, that's simply not relevant.

<<What about on Web sites? My gut feeling is first use on each page,
because you don't always know how someone will come into the Web site, but I
thought I would check with the group.>>

Ditto. In particular, if you've "branded" your site (by establishing a
consistent visual identity for each page), it's simple enough to make the
trademarks appear as part of the branding (e.g., in the footnote at the
bottom of the page that holds the copyright notice; as part of the graphic
logotype at the top of each page).

--Geoff Hart, FERIC, Pointe-Claire, Quebec
geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca

"The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite
of a profound truth may well be another profound truth."--Niels Bohr,
physicist (1885-1962)

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