Re: trademarks

Subject: Re: trademarks
From: Howard Peirce <howard -dot- peirce -at- SDRC -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 7 May 1999 15:04:32 -0400


> I find the discussion of trademarks interesting. I have always
> assumed that it was the duty of the company to use a trademark symbol to
> notify others that the name is propietary, and it was the obligation of
> writers to capitalize such terms (e.g. Zip Drive, not zip drive) in recognition
> of the fact that term is the name of a product (a proper noun).

I'm not sure that there are any real duties or legal obligations involved here,
except that misuse of a trademark is a litigable offense. It's all CYA. You don't
capitalize trademarks because they're proper nouns, you capitalize them because
the spelling and orthography can be trademarked. For example, if you want to be
compliant, references to Corel Draw should read "CorelDRAW!," complete with
exclamation mark, because that's how it's trademarked. And, in fact, Corel has
some legal interest, in terms of product branding, in seeing that the product name
always appears as CorelDRAW!, to distinguish their product from other drawing
software (e.g. Microsoft Draw, which I'm not even sure still exists).

In the case of Zip drive, and not sure that "drive" should be capitalized. Without
checking my zip drive at home, if the Zip has the [tm] and drive doesn't, then
it's Zip drive. If it's ZIP[tm], then I'd go with ZIP drive.

When I was involved in proofreading trade Macintosh books, Apple Inc. was able to
specify precisely what font we could use for the cloverleaf (command key), because
the font itself was trademarked as representative of that key.

> I write
> textbooks and my publisher wants me to use trademark symbols, though I don't
> see why.

To protect from publisher from litigation. Basically, you have to show that you
don't intend to diminish the branding of a product in any way. Adding the [tm] is
one way to do that. Often you'll find a listing of trademarks in the front matter,
along the lines of "CorelDRAW! is a trademark of Corel, Inc. ZIP is a registered
trademark of Iomega, Inc, for a brand of removable storage media drive." The list
is tricky, because if you accidentally leave one out, the spurned trademark holder
may consider that litigious. A blanket statement such as "Every attempt has been
made to preserve the trademarks, registered trademarks, and service marks of
products described herein. All trademarks used in this book belong to the people
who own them," is often enough for commercial publishing. The [tm] at first
mention (or throughout) is the most conservative approach. If you're writing
documentation to be distributed with a commercial product, then the company's
lawyers and marketing team make the call, and they generally have a lot invested
in "branding," so expect to jump through hoops.

Also, be absolutely sure to distinguish a trademark [tm] from a registered
trademark (r) or a service mark [sm]. I don't know what the difference between
these are, but the holders of those marks do, and they want to protect them.

> By the way, can anyone clarify for me the significance of TM. I
> have read that it means that the product name "may be registered on the
> state level." That seems awfully vague to me.

It's a form of intellectual property, like a copyright or a patent. Copyrights
protect content, patents protect technology or methodology, and trademarks protect
a brand name. Think of what would happen if Company X were to put out a cereal
called Cheerios and sell it for half of what Quaker does. And suppose Company X's
Cheerios made people violently ill. There are some practical reasons for
trademarks, beyond the marketing advantages to the companies that use them.


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