The dreaded dictionary
Originally posted 2012-05-10 14:06:05. Republished by Blog Post Promoter
A couple of years ago I wrote this post called “the Museum of Genericization,” about a feature on the online Mirriam-Webster dictionary called the “Top Ten Words from Trademarks.” In the post I pointed out that they skipped a pretty obvious one — for obvious reasons.
Obviousness, however, seems to be like intrepidity these days: It is as it does.
Let me start again. I mean to say that it is obvious to trademark lawyers, at least, that in most cases — Google being a notable exception (because due to its ubiquity, it gained far more than it has probably lost) — there is nothing worse for a brand, trademark-wise, than ending up in the dictionary. Because that means you’re a word, not a brand. Generic. Kaput.
Well, obvious really is as it does, darn it! Because look what mega-super-social-media-juggernaut Mashable just pushed out over the ‘tubes: Want Your Startup Name in the Dictionary? Choose Wisely:
The English language is constantly evolving. Experts at Merriam-Webster and the Oxford English Dictionary perennially add words that have been invented and accepted in our daily lexicons. The practice can be controversial, however, since it sometimes involves removing other, older words entirely.
For instance, the term “cassette tape” was recently extracted after it was deemed unnecessary and redundant. Both “cassette” and “tape” were in the dictionary already, and the words naturally refer to each other.
Lit majors and writers may get emotional when certain words disappear, but the practice nonetheless reveals where our language is heading. When examining recently added words, it comes as no surprise that many of these words are tech-related.
In particular, for a brand to gain entry into one of the world’s foremost dictionaries it must be deemed a universal, generic term. Take “Xerox” for example. The brand name is so common that it has since become a verb, as well: “Sheila, xerox that memo for me, would you?”
Yes, we know all about that. But I’ll save you and Sheila the trouble: The word “trademark” does not appear in the article.
Remember what I said about obvious? It didn’t seem obvious, evidently, to Mashable that this could be an “issue.”
If your trademark becomes a word, you’ve lost your trademark, right? And trademarks are desiderata, the avoidance-of-losing of the same being sufficiently important to make companies say really dumb stuff?
Isn’t that obvious? Turns out it, er, doesn’t.