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Tuesday, 16 December 2008

On dongles, teletext and trade marks ...

The IPKat always enjoys reading the musings of his friends. That is why he was so pleased to receive this little piece, from a trade mark attorney who prefers anonymity for the sake of her good name and unblemished reputation:

"Flicking through the Chambers Dictionary of 1994 in an idle moment, I came upon "dongle" defined as "a device plugged into a computer which prevents the unauthorised use of software on a different machine". Coincidentally, I came across UK Trade Mark Registration 2375017 (filed October 2004) for DONGLE (word) for such goods as "computers sold complete" and such services as "remote data access services".

I also, in this Dictionary, came across a long definition of "teletext" beginning "a computer-based information-retrieval system" and, coincidentally, UK Trade Mark Registration 2343221 (filed September 2003) for TELETEXT (word) for such goods as "data and information provided on-line or on-screen in downloadable form" and such services as "transmission of information including broadcasting of text pages".

I'm a little uncomfortable at words I could have used (say) ten years ago without a thought of trade mark infringement being appropriated by businesses in this way: am I alone?"
Come on, readers, tell the IPKat's correspondent if s/he's alone! If you have any other classic examples of once bland, ordinary descriptive or generic terms turning into trade marks that are close to the original meaning of those terms, just post them as comments below.

3 comments:

Luke Ueda-Sarson said...

Well the obvious one is "Windows" which once described any GUI that used windowing, but has since been appropriated by Microsoft.

But as a chemist, my bugbear is "Taxol". This once common name for a specific compound is now a rather rigorously enforced trademark, which has meant we now have to refer to the compound by the hated neologism paclitaxel. Taxol had been in use for decades before BMS trademarked it in the early 1990s.

Cheers, Luke

Anonymous said...

TELETEXT was only registered after a struggle; it took four years. It was allowed on the basis of evidence of acquired distinctiveness. I still consider it a generic term.
However if the UK Registry refuses an application on the basis that a word is a well known term in common use an OHIM examiner whose mother tongue is not English may allow it. I know examples.

Guy said...

HOOCH was registered in class 33 in 1997 for flavoured alcoholic drinks. This fits the OED definition as illicit whiskey and similar spirits usually have a flavour although not always pleasant.

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