Re: Tradmarks

Subject: Re: Tradmarks
From: Tim Altom <taltom -at- SIMPLYWRITTEN -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 10 May 1999 18:49:58 -0500

>How can it be considered just a courtesy? The trademark owner must defend
>their trademark from common language usage as this will void their
>trademark. This would mean they must bring you to court to acknowledge the
>trademark if they wish to protect it. If you truly believe it to be a
>courtesy, how do you expect them to defend the trademark? They will sue you
>if they can prove you gained comercial advantage or they will demand that
>you withdraw all documentation which does not correctly attribute the
>trademark. Do you still think it's not up to you to defend their trademark?
>If technical writers or marketing incorrectly attribute a trademark they
>are leaving their company open to loosing a load of cash if the
>documentation and the products it comes with needs to be recalled and

In practice, attacking the publication isn't going to be an option for the
trademark holder unless he can make a case that you're appropriating the
trademarked product and pretending it's yours. In the case of Microsoft, for
example, this conclusion couldn't rationally be drawn by anyone with twenty
minutes experience in technology. But lesser-known trademarks might
conceivably be blended into a book or manual so subtly that the reader might
think that the writer owned that trademark. I suppose it could happen, even
if I've never seen it happen.

And no, it's still not the writer's obligation to defend someone else's
trademark. The trademark law only guarantees the holder the right to use
that mark in commerce. If, as you say, a writer misuses that trademark by
"regularizing it" as a common noun or ordinary verb, the trademark holder
can object, hop up and down, refuse to cooperate in the future, and threaten
and cajole, but little else. The law doesn't protect the trademark holder
from having his beloved trademark hijacked into the common parlance. It
ensures only that the holder has a legal recourse if somebody else is trying
to make money masquerading another product as the trademarked product.

Tradmark holders protect their trademarks from infringers with lawsuits.
They defend against regularization with advertising campaigns. Caterpillar,
the maker of heavy equipment, used to regularly run ads in Writer's Digest
reminding the ink-stained wretches that their Caterpillar products had a
trademark, by golly, and that writers shouldn't say things like "a
caterpillar" when they meant "road grader". But Cat isn't likely to try
enjoining even a best-selling author. The law doesn't provide for that

Tim Altom
Adobe Certified Expert, Acrobat
Simply Written, Inc.
The FrameMaker support people
We train and consult on the Clustar Method
for single source documentation

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