jester at PANIX.COM jester at PANIX.COM
Thu Jun 1 21:05:44 UTC 2000

> 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.

But dictionary companies get threatening letters from lawyers all
the time, and these must be responded to, often with research. This
is a real pain.

Companies all the time have statements like the one quoted here
before--"So-and-so is a trademark and you cannot blah blah blah"--
and these statements are, in general, legally meaningless [I am
not a lawyer, but I'm told thus by those who are]. Still, if you
know that by including so-and-so in your dictionary, or using it
generically in published writing, you'll get a huge stack of
legal documents FedExed--whoops, sent--to you, it does have a
certain chilling effect.

Jesse Sheidlower

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