Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Daniel Kegan: "The grammar of intellectual property: Copyright is a noun, trademark is an adjective"

I don't like seeing the word "trademark" used as a verb. Nor the word "copyright." Daniel Kegan, of Kegan & Kegan in Chicago, doesn't either. He touches on this point in a brief article for the Illinois State Bar Association, entitled "The grammar of intellectual property: Copyright is a noun, trademark is an adjective." [pdf here]. Dan, whom we all know from the INTA list serv, has kindly given me permission to publish the article.

Illinois State Fair 2006

Text Copyright John L. Welch 2010.


At 8:50 AM, Anonymous Susan Goldsmith said...

Good effort, but I fear this is swimming against the tide. Or as William Safire might have said, "There's no stopping Norma Loquendi." I am grateful when people recognize that trademarks have something to do with brands, or that trademarks and copyrights are different from patents. I cringe when they talk of "patenting a name."

We should keep trying to educate people, but I think using "trademark" as a verb is not so bad if the person is using it in an informal context as shorthand for getting a trademark registration. Furthermore, as is true for genericide, Norma Loquendi will win the day.

At 11:22 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The word "trademark," like the word "copyright," is an adjective. The legal theory of trademarks is that they function as adjectives, but that does not change the fact that the word "trademark" is a noun.

At 4:26 AM, Blogger Peter Groves said...

I'm confused by Dan's comment that a trademark is an adjective, especially as he seems to be using it as a noun - but I agree that it shouldn't be a verb, except in the situation where the verb part is "to mark" and teh "trade" just denotes a special sort of marking. Your usage (in the US), running the two words "trade" and "mark" together, argues against this possibility, though. As for "copyright", that should be a noun and an adjective, but American usage allows for the adjective "copyrighted", which strongly suggests it's a verb too, which should definitely not be allowed in British English. But surely with the way we all use "patent" the tide is in, and we are wasting our time trying to swim against it?

As I have recently finished writing a Dictionary of Intellectual Property - my own little bit of counter-tide-swimming - I'm delighted to see these matters being aired! Lawyers should take care how they use words ...

At 1:37 PM, Anonymous Steve Baird said...

Like it or not, the word "trademark" has multiple meanings, one of them as a verb. From my perspective it is nothing to cringe about, instead, when it is used as a verb, take the opportunity to inquire about the speaker's intended meaning and share your expertise.


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