Posts Tagged ‘trademark usage’

How to Use Trademarks Properly – Are Your Documents Compliant?

September 24, 2011

How to use trademarks in any document is simple and straightforward.

It was 8:00 P.M. when the call came through. New B2B client in a panic. Some wireless company threatening a lawsuit. A letter that says there’s a trademark problem.

I was about to calmly tell him to talk to their attorney but, instead, I asked him to email me a copy of the letter.

While waiting, I recalled something my sushi buddy Michael Bierman once told me: “Many trademark cases could be avoided by complying with the rules when writing. It’s always neglecting the simple things that turns into costly and time-consuming litigation.” As a partner at Luce Forward, he speaks from decades of trademark litigation experience.

A few minutes later I’m reading the frenzied client’s letter. I breathed a sigh of relief. It appeared to be little more than a form letter advising my client that “[product brand name] is a registered trademark….”

Prior to retaining my firm, this client had been a DIYer (Do It Yourself) that wrote its own documents. Unfortunately, use of trademarks must have not been observed, and that triggered the boilerplate warning letter.

My firm has always done some amount of oversight/mentoring work for B2B wireless clients who create their own documents. Document review typically accounts for the bulk of those activities. The trademark faux pas has happened often enough that years ago I created a basic how-to document just for such moments.  Here’s that advisory:

Mandatory Trademark Compliance Is
Straightforward and Simple

Proper trademark usage in your documents protects your B2B wireless company’s valuable brand. Applying the same usage to other company’s trademarked brands will help avoid legal entanglements.

What Is a Trademark?
It is any brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem that a company is claiming legal rights of protection to prevent a competitor from using it.

What Are the “Marks”?
There are only three trademark identifiers:  “R,”  “TM”, and occasionally “SM”

  • When written, they are either
    • Superscripted, e.g., ®, TM, SM, or
    • In parentheses, e.g., (R), (TM), (SM)

Which Identifier to Use for Another Company’s Marks ?
Simple! The one that the company claiming the mark uses.

Where Do I Apply the Mark in My Documents?
The rules are easy:

  • Always apply the mark the first time the brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem appears in the main body of your document
    • Apply the mark only once in your document, no matter how many other times you may use the same brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem
  • Never apply the mark to the brand name, symbol, slogan/motto, word, image, or emblem when it appears in the title or subtitle of your document

Are There Other Rules?
Yes, and this one seems always to be misused. Trademarks should never be used as nouns or verbs. The mark is always used as an adjective. Here’s an example:

Right (Adjective)

Wrong (Noun)

“… announced the availability of its
UniMobile® software that
runs on any smartphone.”
“… announced the availability of UniMobile® that runs on any smartphone.”

One Last Rule
Always insert a trademark notice at the very end of your document. This is usually in small type. Here’s an example:

 UniMobile is a registered trademark of Wireless Widgets, Inc. All other
trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Regardless of the type of documents you’re creating—press releases, white papers, web content, sales collateral—proper trademark usage is more than just a nit-picking detail. Follow the simple rules, and you’ll save time, money, and frayed nerves at 8:00 P.M..

Other helpful writing tips are available in MarkeTech’s Monograph:  The Perfect Press Release. Email your request for a complimentary copy to Team[at]MarkeTechCom[dot]com.

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