Last September, in my blog post entitled "What Does Trademarked Mean to You?," I wrote:
More than a few trademark types cringe when their clients or others say things like "let’s trademark it," "they didn’t trademark their logo," or "we don’t want to trademark this name," and, when they ask questions like "is it trademarked?" or "is that trademarked software?" or "did we ever trademark our logo?" or "should we be trademarking this packaging?"
Well, a couple more of the cringers have raised their hands.
Our good friend John Welch over at the TTABlog reported yesterday that he doesn’t like "seeing the word ‘trademark’ used as a verb," and he republished a recent article by Daniel Kegan entitled "The grammar of intellectual property: Copyright is a noun, trademark is an adjective," originally published by the Illinois State Bar Association, linked here. In his article, Mr. Kegan similarly writes: "Trademark is an adjective, not a verb."
Actually, according to the English dictionary, "trademark" is both a noun (you know, a person, place or thing?) and a verb (an action):
trade·mark–noun1.any name, symbol, figure, letter, word, or mark adopted and used by a manufacturer or merchant in order to designate his or her goods and to distinguish them from those manufactured or sold by others. A trademark is a proprietary term that is usually registered with the Patent and Trademark Office to assure its exclusive use by its owner.2.a distinctive mark or feature particularly characteristic of or identified with a person or thing.–verb (used with object)3.to stamp or otherwise place a trademark designation upon.4.to register the trademark of.
Indeed, even this quote from Mr. Kegan’s article confirms the proper use of "trademark" as a noun: "A trademark is obtained by use." This is a correct statement of fact and law, but the word "trademark" is clearly the object – the thing – of this sentence, i.e., the noun. Furthermore, with respect to the proper use of "trademark" as a verb, as I have previously written:
[T]he words "trademark," "trademarked," and "trademarking," are recognized words with established verb meanings that have formed part of the English language: "(1) To label (a product) with proprietary identification; and (2) to register (something) as a trademark." Moreover, the word "trademarked" has an established adjective meaning too: "labeled with proprietary (and legally registered) identification guaranteeing exclusive use; ‘trademarked goods’".
From my perspective, there is no need for cringing or even correction, just further inquiry into how the words "trademark," "trademarked," and "trademarking" are being used.
Given the various definitions for these words, the speaker might mean labeling a product or advertising material, utilizing or marking such materials with the appropriate trademark notice or symbol, registering a trademark or service mark, or perhaps, all of the above. Since the described actions (labeling and registering) are quite distinct, it becomes important to seek clarity on the speaker’s intended meaning.
So, again, really, what’s the big deal?
No need to cringe, in my humble opinion, this is just another example of where the use of a word in the English language begs for some follow-up questions by the listener to clarify the speaker’s intended meaning. Seems to me this potential for confusion is an opportunity for us trademark types to engage the speaker by asking some questions and then offering to explain and enlighten.
Where do you camp on this issue? Are you a cringer when it comes to IP grammar?