A Trademark Lesson from Famous Inventors


Every so often I come across a turn of phrase that just makes me smile. The online news magazine Slate did so with its slide show called “There Once Was a Man Named Leotard,” which is devoted to how certain people – generally well-known inventors – have names that have become nouns. This charming selection is culled from a longer slide show available at Life.com, which includes historical tidbits about fellows including the Jacuzzi brothers, Etienne Silhouette, John Montagu (the Fourth Earl of Sandwich), Frank Zamboni, Nikolai Tesla, and my personal favorite, Jules Leotard. Chances are, you can guess which things or objects are we encounter in regular life that bears these mens’ names.

Of course, there is a trademark lesson here. While John Montagu, being a nobleman and all, probably wasn’t interested in monetizing his system of placing meat and vegetables between pieces of bread to create a tasty and portable meal option, and while the unit of measurement that bears Nikolai Tesla’s name is neither a good nor a service, only some of the other inventors named in the slide shows have obtained trademark protection for their revolutionary goods, while many of the others have, perhaps unwittingly, allowed their names to become the generic for the goods at issue. One of the basic tenets of trademark usage is that a trademark should be used as an adjective to describe a noun – the generic term for the goods or services at issue. Trademarks should always be used as names for brands, not names for things. The cost of using a trademark as a noun, generically, is considerable – generic terms simply aren’t capable of obtaining trademark protection, as generic terms must be free for all to use.

Please see full article below for more information.

LOADING PDF: If there are any problems, click here to download the file.

Written by:

Published In:

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Winthrop & Weinstine, P.A. | Attorney Advertising

Don't miss a thing! Build a custom news brief:

Read fresh new writing on compliance, cybersecurity, Dodd-Frank, whistleblowers, social media, hiring & firing, patent reform, the NLRB, Obamacare, the SEC…

…or whatever matters the most to you. Follow authors, firms, and topics on JD Supra.

Create your news brief now - it's free and easy »

All the intelligence you need, in one easy email:

Great! Your first step to building an email digest of JD Supra authors and topics. Log in with LinkedIn so we can start sending your digest...

Sign up for your custom alerts now, using LinkedIn ›

* With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name.