Once in a while, a news story will come up that makes people scratch their heads and say, is everything trademarkable? This happened a few months ago when Proctor & Gamble filed a trademark on commonly used text acronyms like WTF, LOL, NBD, and FML. To the surprise of many, there has been no indication that their trademark application will not be approved, which has led many to ask what ramifications this will have on their ability to use these acronyms in their conversations every day. The short answer is none - anyone who was using those acronyms before can continue to do so. Read on to learn more about why a trademark on these acronyms does not prevent the public from using them, and contact the Santa Monica and Los Angeles trademark law attorneys if you have any questions about filing your own trademark application with the California Secretary of State.
What Rights do Trademarks Give the Trademark Owner?
A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination of the above that gives the trademark owner exclusive rights to use the mark in conjunction with its products or services. Although all marks are protected simply by virtue of your use of the mark, registering the mark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) or with the California Secretary of State affords the trademark owner more rights with regards to the mark.
Can the Public Use a Trademarked Word or Phrase?
Yes. A common misconception is that once a word or phrase is trademarked, the public no longer has a right to use it in their day-to-day life. However, this is not the case. Contrary to what many think, a trademark does not give the trademark owner a monopoly on the mark. Rather, the trademark only allows the owner to exclusively use the mark in relation to the product to which it is attached.
In the case of Proctor & Gamble, while it yet to be seen what products they plan to create and name “LOL,” “WTF,” “NBD,” and “FML,” if they are granted the trademarks, they will only have exclusive use to those acronyms as they relate to the particular products. Thus, you need not worry about having to change your text lingo or accidentally infringing on a company’s trademark when your friend sends you a funny or shocking text message.
Contact a Santa Monica or Los Angeles Trademark Law Attorney Today
If you would like a more in-depth analysis of how a company’s trademarks affect the general public, or if you would like a personalized review of the trademarks in your business, contact the experienced trademark law attorneys at Verhagen Bennett today. We have served numerous businesses in the Santa Monica and greater Los Angeles area with their trademark needs and can advise you of your best options for protecting your intellectual property. Contact us at 310-917-1064 or visit our website today to find out how we can help you.
(image courtesy of Kah Lok Leong)
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© 2018 Verhagen Bennett LLP — This article is for general information only. The information presented should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship.