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Other people's trademarks

By Lisa Curry

I’m a writer, not a lawyer. But in writing marketing copy, sometimes you have to try to think like an attorney, especially when it comes to proper indication and use of trademarks.

The registered trademark symbol — ® — is used when a company has legally registered a trademark. The trademark symbol — ™ — is used when a company has filed for a trademark but has not yet received registration.

Most companies have a list of their own registered and pending trademarks. What’s a little trickier is when you have to reference OTHER companies’ trademarks. Let’s imagine you’ve optimized your website for viewing on smartphones and tablets, and you want to let people know, so you might say, “Visit our website on your Apple® iPad® today!”

Actually, I should have written, “Apple® iPad® mobile digital device.” That’s because even though we all use trademarks as nouns every day in speech (as in, “I’ll have a Coke®,” or, “That’s a nice Corvette®!”), trademarks are technically supposed to be used as adjectives.

So how are you to know what other companies’ trademarks are? Some corporations, such as Apple and Microsoft, have trademark lists on their websites, but many don’t, and it doesn’t help if you don’t know who owns the trademark.

One tool I’ve found that can help speed your search is the website www.trademarkia.com. There, in one central location, you can find out that Corvette is a registered trademark for automobiles, owned by General Motors LLC, and that Coke is a registered trademark for soft drinks, owned by The Coca-Cola Company.

It’s unlikely that either of these revelations surprised you, but — hallelujah — you can also find all the lesser-known trademarks you’ve never heard of, and have no idea who owns, there as well.

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