trademark (composition)

Glossary

Definition

A distinctive word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies a product or service and is legally owned by its manufacturer or inventor. Abbreviation, TM.

In formal writing, as a general rule, trademarks should be avoided unless specific products or services are being discussed. Exceptions are sometimes made when a trademark (for example, Taser) is better known than its generic equivalent (electroshock weapon).



The website of the International Trademark Association [INTA] includes a guide to the proper use of more than 3,000 trademarks registered in the U.S. According to the INTA, a trademark "should always be used as an adjective qualifying a generic noun that defines the product or service [for example, Ray-Ban sunglasses, not Ray-Bans]. . . . As adjectives, marks should not be used as plurals or in the possessive form, unless the mark itself is plural or possessive (such as 1-800-FLOWERS, MCDONALD’S or LEVI’S)."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

Examples and Observations

  • Though often treated as generic terms, the following words and phrases are all registered trademarks:
    Band-Aid
    Chap Stick
    Crock-Pot
    Dolby
    Formica
    Freon
    Frisbee
    Hacky Sack
    Hoover
    Jacuzzi
    Jeep
    Jet Ski
    Kleenex
    Loafer
    Lycra
    Mace
    Naugahyde
    Playbill
    Popsicle
    Rollerblade
    Skivvies
    Spork
    Taser
    Teletype
    Vaseline
    Velcro
    Windbreaker
  • Originally trademarks, these common names are now regarded as generic names:
    aspirin
    bundt cake
    cellophane
    ditto
    dry ice
    escalator
    granola
    heroin
    kerosene
    linoleum
    LP
    minibike
    nylon
    pogostick
    tarmac
    thermos
    touch-tone
    trampoline
    wedgie
    yo-yo
    zipper
  • Capitalization and Designations
    - "All editorial style manuals recommend that trademarks be capitalized. But strict adherence to this convention is likely to startle readers, many of whom are unaware that Dacron, Dumpster, Formica, Frisbee, Jell-o, Mace, Muzak, Orlon, Ping-Pong, Post-it, Styrofoam, Teflon, and Touch-Tone are trademarks. Once a trademark is so common as to be perceived as a generic term that is used metaphorically ('that's no more than a band-aid approach'; 'the teflon president'; 'he shook like jello'), some editors will lowercase the name. . . .

    "There is no need to include such designations as ™ (trademark), ® (registered trademark), or © (copyright) in running text. Indeed it is preferable not to use these symbols because they may interfere with the linespacing of the final document."
    (Amy Einsohn, The Copyeditor's Handbook. University of California Press, 2006)

    - "Fortunately, most book publishers are not interrupting text with a ® or a ™ mark in print or e-books. But because branding is becoming such a worldwide goal, it is perhaps only a matter of time before these marks enter the text of both nonfiction and fiction books.

    "On websites and in news releases I have seen trademark indicators appear the first time the trademark appears in the text, then they are left off in other references to the specific trademark."
    (Linda Spencer, Writing Well in the 21st Century. Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)
     
  • The Lighter Side of Trademarks: Keep Calm . . .
    "In the heart of Northumberland, England, is the pretty town of Alnwick.

    "For bibliophiles, a stop at its second-hand bookshop is a must. Barter Books is housed in the town’s old railway station and, on its outside wall, the shop’s owner Stuart Manley has hung a piece of ephemera, a World War Two poster that reads 'Keep Calm and Carry On.'

    "The problem is that Mark Coop, a businessman, trademarked the phrase in 2011. Coop saw an opportunity to create a monopoly of souvenir mugs, aprons and the like bearing this slogan. He even copied the poster design, and ever since this unremarkable English phrase has been taken out of the public realm and is now privately owned."
    (Harry Blutstein, "Keep Calm and Trademark It: Privatising the English Language." SmartCompany.com.au, May 16, 2013)

 

Pronunciation: TRADE-mark