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The C modest god

Ridiculous trade marking?

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Can a very simple word or name be trade marked? Lets say someone trademarks the word "cat". Then I cant call my game "cat" because its trade marked? What if some crazy guy trademark all the words in the dictionary?

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Windows is trademarked.

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Quote:
Original post by The C modest god
Can a very simple word or name be trade marked? Lets say someone trademarks the word "cat". Then I cant call my game "cat" because its trade marked?
What if some crazy guy trademark all the words in the dictionary?


Trade marks date back hundreds of years, although legal protection for them is a little younger.

To get an idea of what can be trade marked, here's Microsoft's current list.

A Trade Mark is much like a hallmark on a piece of sculpture: it's your company's 'signature', if you will. Therefore, most legal systems in the West tend to protect them. How much protection you get depends a lot on the trade mark's content.

It's generally easier to register 'unique' marks and logos, although there are exceptions. (Microsoft has registered "Windows", for instance.) You cannot usually take a commonly-used word and expect to have sole right to its use as a trade mark. Hence a glazing firm can still use the word "windows" in their own trade mark.

Legal protection is usually designed to prevent "passing-off" -- basically, using a rival's trade mark or trading name against them to make people buy your own goods or services instead.

For instance, an operating system manufacturer cannot use the name "Windows" for their rival to Microsoft's Windows OS. This passing-off protection also extends to using similar names and was the basis of the whole "Windows" vs. "Lindows" spat a while ago: Microsoft (successfully) argued that "Lindows" was clearly trading on the success of MS Windows itself. It was similar enough to be confusing and was clearly a breach of trade mark law. (I happen to agree with the ruling in this case: it's patently obvious that what is now known as "Linspire" is being sold as a direct rival to the desktop editions of Windows. They were relying on Microsoft's own reputation and marketing to help sell their own, rival, product.)

*

There's a lot of litigation in the trade mark field and this exists for a very simple reason: it is a *requirement* of most countries' trade mark laws that the trade mark owners are *seen* to be protecting their trade marks. It's not an option. You can't just assume it's protected forever. If you do, you run into the same problem Hoover ran into in the UK: the word "hoovering" has been synonymous with "vacuuming" for decades and "hoover" is even an entry in the Oxford English Dictionary. Hoover tried to prevent this as it meant that their rivals could use statements like "Why not hoover your carpet with the new ElectroSux(TM) 5000!" in their advertising. Hoover still retain the "Registered Trade Mark" status for their _logo_, so rival companies can't use it in their own advertising, but it's quite common to hear "hoovering" used in this context, often inadvertently. (I've asked a sales assistant at an electrical store to point me to the "hoover" section. They didn't even stock any of Hoover's cleaners.)

Kleenex (in the US) are trying desperately to avoid a similar position, although they have yet to lose their trade mark's registered status.

When you see a company fighting another over a trade mark dispute, this is why. The "Hoover" case is infamous in trade mark law, but it illustrates a problem facing all business: on the one hand, it's _great_ publicity if your company's name becomes a synonym for the products or services you sell. On the other hand, it's a pain in the arse trying to stop your rivals from using it against you.

--
Sean Timarco Baggaley

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Long story short, a trademark is a definitive mark of your business, meaning that it is required for market clarity. Trademark law is quite complex, but essentially, trademarks don't tend to cross state lines unless they are registered trademarks, and even then do not cross national lines easily. Trademarks are created with different businesses in mind, so trademarking "Garfield" as a comic strip would not be the same trademark as "Garfield's" the restaraunt chain. Likewise, I believe it is difficult to trademark simple or common names like "Mike's Beer" or common use words like "potato" unless you have a definitive market presence. Also, as mentioned, trademarks (unlike copyrights) can be lost if not defended, so words like Kleenax or Band-Aid can enter public domain from overuse.

To answer the question, you probably would have a difficult time trademarking "cat", and you certainly can't trademark words without a product to market.

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