Bloody Well Write

May 11, 2009

Trademarks, their symbols and decluttered writing

I don’t know about you, but the day that I learned how to make a trademark (registered and otherwise) on my Mac was a happy day, indeed. I knew that I was a successful Mac user who had mastered a few keystrokes for something that would make others break out in a hot sweat. Co-workers would yell over the wall to me, begging for those pearls of wisdom: Share — please share the knowledge! How the heck do you insert a TM again? And don’t even get me started on the em dash and its shy cousin, the en dash. It was almost as if I were Steve Jobs’ right-hand gal, the way I could throw around directions for special characters.

OK, I can hear you snickering. I suppose it may not have been quite that awe-inspiring. Time gives memory an expansive quality; everything seems bigger, better (or harder, worse — depending on your mood) back in the day. But I will tell you this: Those circle R’s and TMs and such gave me a sense of accomplishment. And now I’d like to share that information. It’ll come in handy if you’re on a Mac (if you’re on a PC, I’m of zero help — sorry!):

® = Option+ R
™ = Option + 2
And for good measure, here are a few other fun symbols and inserts for you:
© = Option + G
En dash = Option + Hyphen
Em dash = Option + Shift + Hyphen
Ellipsis = Option + Semicolon

The funny thing is, though, now that I know these simple keystrokes for trademarks, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to use them. You see, I work at an advertising agency that follows AP Stylebook guidelines. In fact, most agencies follow the same guidelines. And the Associated Press does not use trademark symbols. So, poop — I’ve lost my mojo.

Of course, I still have to make sure that when I write or edit copy, any brand, symbol, word or whatnot is rightfully acknowledged as being trademarked. The solution is simple: Initial-cap the word or phrase. That uppercase letter is enough to get most corporate lawyers off your back, so don’t feel obligated to add trademark symbols plus the generic terms unless you just really have a hankering for them. AP suggests using the generic equivalent whenever possible, unless the trademarked name would give some extra punch to whatever you’re writing.

So many words out there are actually trademarks, but a lot of folks don’t realize it. Kleenex is, perhaps, the most obvious case, as most folks and the proverbial dog say Kleenex when they really mean tissue (maybe they are wiping with a Puffs brand or a Great Value brand, but they still say Kleenex). Other examples aren’t quite as well-known. Here’s a fun list of trademark examples, with their generic equivalents in parentheses:

Ace (elastic bandage)
Adrenalin (epinephrine hydrochloride or adrenaline)
Aqua-Lung (underwater breathing apparatus)
Band-Aid (adhesive bandage)
Bobcat (excavators, backhoes and such)
Boogie (bodyboard for surfing)
Books on Tape (audiotape)
Bubble Wrap (packing material)
Caterpillar (crawler tractor)
Chemical Mace/Mace (aerosal tear gas)
Coke (cola, soda or pop, depending on your locale)
Clorox (bleach)
Dacron (polyester fiber)
Deepfreeze (freezer)
Dictaphone (dictation recorder)
Disposall (garbage disposer; often a descriptor for a male in the house)
Dixie cup (paper cup)
Dramamine (motion sickness remedy)
Dumpster (large trash bin)
Fiberglas (fiberglass)
Florida Keys (no, not a trademark; just seeing if you’re paying attention)
Formica (laminated plastic)
Frigidaire (refrigerator)
Frisbee (plastic flying disc)
Google (Web search engine)
Jacuzzi (whirlpool bath or spa)
Java (computer programming language; also an island of Indonesia; if lowercase, coffee)
Jeep (four-wheel-drive vehicle; if lowercase, a military vehicle)
Jello (gelatin dessert)
Jet Ski (personal watercraft)
Kitty Litter (cat box litter)
Kleenex (facial tissue)
Kodak (cameras and associated products)
Levi’s (jeans)
Lycra (spandex)
Mother Nature (not trademarked, but definitely initial-capped; are you still with me?)
Muzak (recorded background music)
Naugahyde (fake leather)
Oreo (chocolate cookie with white filling)
Ouija (board game)
Photoshop (photo editing software)
Ping-Pong (table tennis or pingpong)
Plexiglas (plastic glass)
Polaroid (instant picture camera)
Popsicle (flavored ice on a stick)
Pyrex (oven glassware)
Q-tips (cotton swabs)
Realtor (a service mark to represent a member of the National Association of Realtors; if subject is not a member, use real estate agent)
Rolls-Royce (automobile)
Scotch tape (transparent tape)
Seeing Eye dog (guide dog trained by Seeing Eye Inc. in N.J.)
Sheetrock (gypsum wallboard)
S.O.S (soap pad — note that there is no final period; wild, huh?)
Styrofoam (plastic foam)
Tabasco (hot pepper sauce)
Taser (stun gun)
Teflon (nonstick coating)
Vaseline (petroleum jelly)
Velcro (fabric fastener)
Victrola (record player)
Welcome Wagon (wheeled vehicle carrying information and gifts)
Windbreaker (wind-resistant jacket)
Xerox (photocopy machine)
Yahoo (online computer service)

Schnikies! That’s a long list, and I guarantee that there a ton more, so be ever-vigilant in your writing and editing. Look stuff up if you have any question about its trademark status. I learned a few new ones as I was typing the list, so I’m a happy camper. If you have questions about other trademarks (or trademark issues), you should check out the International Trademark Association’s Web site.

Happy trails!

SAK

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