Trademarks in online help?

Subject: Trademarks in online help?
From: "Geoff Hart" <geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com
Date: Thu, 4 Nov 1999 08:25:50 -0500

Aoidìn Scully wondered <<How do you use trademarks in online
help? The MS Manual only tells you what to do for 'online books',
which I think isn't quite the same, as the user would be expected
to read sequentially.>>

Take a step back and ask yourself what the purpose of a
trademark is: to identify something as the property of one company
and no other company. So strictly speaking, the presence or
absence of a trademark is less important than that you
acknowledge ownership and don't try to make it look like you own
someone else's trademark. Online, in-print, or psychic
communication: the principle is the same.

The legal niceties get a bit more convoluted, but basically they boil
down to the fact that if you don't protect your trademark (e.g., use
it only as an adjective: "Microsoft (R) Windows (TM) software),
eventually it enters the public domain. My feel (speaking as a non-
lawyer but based on what I've seen in magazines, books, manuals
and online docs from people who can hire expensive lawyers) is
that if you can write with the spirit of the legislation in mind, it's
simply not worth worrying about the issue. Include a section
somewhere obvious that acknowledges copyrights (e.g., "Except
for OurProduct 1.0 (TM), which is the property of OurProd Inc., all
other product names are the properties of their respective owners"),
then ignore the trademarks everywhere else.

You're in slightly riskier waters if you're discussing your own
trademark, and the marketeers want you to pepper your
documentation with explicit references to your product. Not the
best idea in the world, but if you're forced to do that, take a leaf out
of the books of Adobe, Microsoft and others who can afford
expensive lawyers to rule on such issues: state the copyrights in
the fine print at the front of the manual, use it in the wordmarks on
the cover, and ignore it everywhere else.

--Geoff Hart @8^{)} geoff-h -at- mtl -dot- feric -dot- ca (Pointe-Claire, Quebec)
"If you can't explain it to an 8-year-old, you don't understand it"--Albert Einstein

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