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Proper Names and Permissions : Writers' Block Party • Page 2 • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Proper Names and Permissions

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bobkalsey
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby bobkalsey » Tue Feb 07, 2006 1:52 pm

Technically, trademarks are adjectives. That is, "Kleenex" is used as "Kleenex tissue," not as "a Kleenex." So if you want to make trademark holders happy, you'll use their words that way. But that's more an issue if you are writing material for the trademark owners.

Most corporations have trademark guidelines for their employees and freelance writers, and in my experience most of them specify that the proper mark (circle-R for registered trademarks, TM for unregistered trademarks, etc., etc.) needs to be attached the FIRST time a tradename is used in an article or publication. Subsequent uses need only be capitalized (and used as adjectives rather than nouns or verbs). Usually the company will also require that, if page of a brochure or other document is likely to be photocopied (I almost said "xeroxed" ) and reproduced separately, the proper mark appear with the first use on that page.

Although I'm no lawyer or expert, I don't believe it is necessary for writers who are not representing nor writing for the trademark owner to include TM indications in the body of their copy. I have seen some books in which a notice appears in the front matter to the effect of "XYZ is a registered trademark of XYZ corporation," but I would guess that was done by an overly nervous publisher. I have on my desk a copy of Bill Gates' book "The Road Ahead" in which he mentions "Microsoft" and "Windows" repeatedly and there is no trademark indication anywhere in the book. Yet in a book called "Inside the PowerPC Revolution" there is a paragraph on the edition notice page explaining that "Microsoft is a trademark and Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation. All other brand names and product names ... (etc., etc.)." When "Windows" is mentioned in the text, there is no further TM marking. My point is, these things are handled differently by different publishers, depending on how picky their lawyers are, so you would probably be wise to follow the publisher's guidelines or (if the matter is not addressed), leave the circle-R's off and let the publisher make the decision.

But companies MUST be careful about how they themselves use their trademarks and symbols, so if you are writing something for a company be sure you get it right.

(By the way, Kimberly-Clark, owners of "Kleenex tissue," have an admonition on their web site to PLEASE respect the Kleenex trademark, capitalize the word, and use it as an adjective.  They are certainly worried about losing this very valuable trade name. I'm sure they are very happy that "Kleenex" is such a widely recognized word, but if they allow their tradename to lapse by not renewing their registration or being lax about enforcing their rights, other companies could use the word and Kimberly-Clark could do nothing about it.  It's been mentioned that today you see many "aspirins," because Bayer lost its trademark protection for the word -- I'm sure they'd like to have that protection back!)  (By the way, "Heroin" was once a trademark held by Bayer, too.)

Jumbie
 

RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby Jumbie » Tue Feb 07, 2006 2:50 pm

I would think your editor would know when you need to use the appropriate symbols.


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Georganna
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby Georganna » Tue Feb 07, 2006 4:04 pm

You can always check to see if a "thing" is protected by a trade or service mark.  You probably already know brand names.  Is it really so difficult to write "tissue" instead of "Kleenex"?  Do we need to have another "jello" fight?

Curious
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby Curious » Tue Feb 07, 2006 11:57 pm

Ironic that you should say that, Georganna.

In the manuscript that I'm currently revising, Jello plays a prominant role. That book is a bit like "Leave It to Beaver" meets "The Terminator," and Jello seems like the perfect product for an entirely urban and largely disconnected-from-reality society. I even include a humorous futuristic Jello commercial on TV. I'm still waiting to see if my editor nixes it.

If she does, that would be a shame because our language has no other convenient word for Jello. "Gelatin dessert" just doesn't cut it!

(And I guess the moral of this story is that if you're submitting to editors and agents, I wouldn't worry about the occasional brand-name wandering through your fiction. Your editor will tell you if it won't fly.)

Clare

JessicaLeigh
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby JessicaLeigh » Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:55 am

Clare,

I'm glad to see your reply. That is all I really wanted to know, if it is up to me to secure permissions or if the agent/editor will nix any questionable use of product names.

Thanks.

"There's always room for Jell-O."

yudelka
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby yudelka » Fri Feb 10, 2006 5:24 am

Righ on, Bob!
Clare, your story sounds like much fun! Hope it works out well.

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Georganna
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby Georganna » Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:37 am

Unfortunately it is the job of an agent to sell your book to a publisher.  It is the job of a publisher's editor to oversee purchasing saleable manuscripts.  It's the writer's job to write it right, and that includes making it as easy as possible for an agent to sell and the editor to buy.  The more problems created for these people, the less likely a manuscript will sell.

yudelka
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby yudelka » Fri Feb 10, 2006 9:53 am


Curious
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby Curious » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:37 am

Well, it's true that a book-length manuscript should be written right, but in the fiction world, editors and agents are looking for a wonderful story written in an engaging way. No one is going to turn down a wonderful story written in an engaging way because it happens to have a brand name wandering around in it somewhere. When I write, I'm getting the story right, not worrying about whether or not I need Jello's permission to say "jello." That's something my publishing house has dealt with before, so they'll know the answer without even having to think hard. I don't need to waste time on it. I need to spend my time perfecting the story.

How do I know this? My editor once went on a mini-rant about the questions that get asked at writers' conferences. Instead of worrying about plot, character, or setting, the conference-goers were asking her, "What font should I use? What should my margins be?" She found it ludicrous. She insisted that no great story ever got turned down because of some picky detail like that. In her world, it's the quality of the storytelling that matters.

In the non-fiction world, of course, it's another matter. When I wrote non-fiction, I *did* get my brand-names in a row. And my footnotes. And my bibliography. Different emphasis altogether.

Clare

yudelka
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RE: Proper Names and Permissions

Postby yudelka » Fri Feb 10, 2006 11:16 am


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