Thomas M. Paikeday thomaspaikeday at SPRINT.CA
Mon Sep 1 12:37:33 UTC 2003

Here's something that may interest linguists (Ron Butters, Bethany Dumas, Roger Shuy, and others) who are into trademark consultancy:

1. The Beer Store® is essentially a place where beer is stored. But its wares (as declared in its application for registration as a trademark) are clothing, promotional items, and novelty wares. Its services are the operation of retail stores and sale of alcoholic beverages, especially beer. These, in my opinion, are accidental features (based on the philosophical distinction between "substance" and "accident"). "Beer store," therefore, is not "descriptive" (in trademark usage) of its goods and services.

2. The Corner Store® is essentially a store at a corner, but its declared wares are "building materials, namely, mouldings and components for forming mitreless joints between mouldings." "Corner store" is not descriptive of the products it sells.

3. The General Store® is essentially a store of general merchandise, but its declared wares are computer software, catalogues, household electronic appliances, and stationery. It also sells travel services, catalogue marketing of consumer goods, and their delivery. This sounds like a specialty store that specializes in many goods and services. "General store" is not descriptive of the products and services it sells.

The essential meaning of a word, what is foremost in the mind of the average educated user (or AEU, my term for the traditional "native speaker") who knows the word, may be said to be descriptive of it. This is not always the first meaning given in a dictionary. It may be the first in origin if that is how a particular dictionary is organized, as historical dictionaries are (OED, Webster's Third and derivatives, etc.), not the first in actual use, which is the commonest acceptation of a word in the speech community. This meaning is based on the consensus of the people who use the language, whose representative is the AEU.

Thus, for the word "store," the first meaning given in the Concise Oxford, 2002 (and Webster's Collegiate, 2003, etc.) namely, "a quantity or supply kept for use as needed" (COD, store, n. 1), in a word, "reserve" or "stock," arose in the late 15th century. There are 10 of these older meanings in the OED, some labelled rare or obsolete.

In current North American English, however, a store, also called "shop," is "a place where things are kept for future use or sale" (COD, n. 2). This meaning arose in North America in the early 18th century. This, in my opinion, is the essential meaning of "store," the one that is most easily recognized by the AEU, hence given as No. 1 by dictionaries such as American Heritage (which follow a different drummer than Webster's Third). The definition of this meaning may be said to be "descriptive" of the word in trademark usage.

I would appreciate your learned comments.


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