AAllan at AOL.COM AAllan at AOL.COM
Thu Jun 1 20:59:07 UTC 2000

This is what I've heard at meetings of the Dictionary Society, from those who
ought to know:

Even though you can register a name as a trademark, you cannot prevent people
from using that name in discourse, or even putting it in a dictionary. The
registration means only that others can't use that name to make money by
using your name for their product. For example, the Coca-Cola company can
prevent a grocery story from adverising Pepsi as "Coke," but it cannot stop
people in the southeastern U.S. from calling a Pepsi or other soft drink a
coke, or co-cola, or whatever. Trademark has to do with trade; conversation
has to do with free speech.

Companies want their trademarks to be widely known, which leads to the
likelihood that a trademark will become a generic term: Kleenex and Xerox,
for example. So the lawyers for the companies are vigilant. They send out
threatening letters to makers of dictionaries, for example, if a dictionary
dares to say that a trademark has a generic use. Pusillanimous lexicographers
sometimes retreat; we heard a story not too long ago about "Crackerjack" in
the venerable Dictionary of American English. But no dictionary, from what
I've heard, has ever actually been sued for reporting generic usage of a
trademark, much less lost a suit.

So if you want to use "metadata" not to sell a product of your own but just
to discuss something, ain't no law can stop you. - Allan Metcalf

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