Friday, July 07, 2006

Acronym Finder Responds to TTABlog Comments re Reliability

On more than one occasion [e.g., here and here], I have questioned the reliability of the website called "Acronym Finder" -- in particular, its value as an authority on or reference for the meaning of acronyms. Acronym Finder appeared to me to suffer from the same flaw as Wikipedia: its content is uncorroborated and may be created or altered by its users.

Moreover, the Acronym Finder's "Terms of Use" include the following, somewhat troublesome disclaimer:

"We've done our best to ensure the accuracy of the Acronym Finder database, however, we do not take responsibility for the accuracy of any of the information in the acronym database. Capitalization is NOT necessarily correct. Use information from this site at your own risk." (Emphasis in original)

Mike Molloy, owner, developer, and editor of the Acronym Finder, has sent me the following missive, explaining why he believes my comments are inaccurate and why the Acronym Finder is trustworthy.

Dear John:

I recently came across your blog and some comments about Acronym Finder.

I would like to challenge a couple of things you said about the reliability of Acronym Finder. I've been the owner, developer, and editor of the for-profit Acronym Finder since 1997.

In your TTABlog Comment, you said:

"I continue to wonder why the USPTO and the TTAB place any reliance at all on the acronymfinder database. Its entries are created by the users themselves (like Wikipedia)."

It is true that some Acronym Finder users suggest new acronym and abbreviation definitions, but it is inaccurate to say that our entries are "created by the users themselves" or that we are "like Wikipedia".

We have editorial standards for what we publish. Every suggested definition is reviewed by a human editor (employed by Acronym Finder; no volunteers) and is multi-source verified and edited before publication. If a definition appears in our database, it is because we have found it to be in common use by more than one source, or, the term comes from a subject matter expert. We do not accept "made-up" definitions. More of our guidelines are here:

In other words, our users do NOT create our content. We only document (after careful review, verification and editing) what we find to be already in use. This is no different from what the lexicographers at Merriam-Webster do -- they observe new words/definitions for things in our evolving language, and then add it to their dictionary when they find the term to be common or mainstream enough.

You also made a reference to some of the slang terms in our database. It's true that you will find "IDU" to mean "I don't understand", but that's because we have documented the fact that people do indeed use IDU to abbreviate this phrase. Inclusion of slang in our database does not detract from its reliability and is no different than a mainstream dictionary including slang/vulgar words used in our language.

Acronym Finder is the most comprehensive respected acronym and abbreviation website by any measure, and it's because we pay attention to accuracy and quality in our content.

Please note that I am not advocating that USPTO and/or TTAB should necessarily rely on Acronym Finder -- I am only pointing out what appears to be a misconception on your part about Acronym Finder's reliability and the standards we use to publish content.

Thanks for listening,

Mike Molloy
Acronym Finder:
Acronym Blog:

If anyone has any further comments regarding the Acronym Finder and its reliability, please send them to me and I will be happy to publish them. I thank Mike Molloy for taking the time to respond to my postings.

TTABlog comment: In my view, the TTAB's policy regarding online reference works is a bit of a mess. For example, if an Examining Attorney relies on an online dictionary in refusing registration, the Board will accept that online evidence. But if the Examining Attorney waits until the briefing stage, then the Board will not take judicial notice of the online definition. Why? Because the online dictionary is not considered reliable unless it also appears in print form. See In re Total Quality Group, Inc., 51 USPQ2d 1474, 1476 (TTAB 1999). But why is the online dictionary any more reliable if an Examining Attorney cites it during prosecution? Isn't it just as unreliable then?

And what about online references like Wikipedia, that allow users to change the content? Surely those reference should not be acceptable.

Calling the Board. Calling the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board! Please pick up the white courtesy phone!


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