Published Collections: Pop Quiz - Can You Avoid the Grave Mistakes of Trademark Management?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Recently added to the Hagley catalog is a variety of trademark publications. The Published Collections Department received an assortment of fliers, leaflets, and pamphlets issued by companies in the interest of safeguarding the value of their trade names. Ephemeral items such as these are rarely retained, and thus they are as difficult to acquire for libraries as they are to consult as primary research material. I learned so much, and had such fun, while handling them.

I developed the following pop quiz to help you assess your own grasp of trademark management.

1. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), “a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others” is known as:

  • a) Copyright.
  • b) Brand.
  • c) Trademark.
  • d) Logo.

The correct answer is (c) Trademark. Copyright protects works of authorship. While a brand is a specific name used by a particular company for its product, its proprietary nature may be conveyed by the capital letters TM, for example: Google Glass ™ optical head-mounted display. A trademark indicates federally registered status by attaching the registration symbol (circle-R), for example: Levi’s® blue jeans.

2. As a part of speech, a trademark is properly used as:

  • a) A noun, as in “Relax in the jacuzzi after your workout.”
  • b) A verb, as in “Henderson, please Xerox these files.”
  • c) An interjection, as in “I wanna drive the zamboni!”
  • d) None of the above.

This is a trick question. The correct answer is (d) None of the above. A trademark should be used as a proper adjective in concert with a generic term; and furthermore, it should always be capitalized, as in “relax in the Jacuzzi® whirlpool bath,” or “make Xerox® photocopies of these files,” or “drive the Zamboni® ice resurfacer.”

3. The best example of a generic name, one that describes a whole class of things without regard to a specific manufacturer, is:

  • a) Kitty litter.
  • b) Bubble wrap.
  • c) Chap stick.
  • d) Crock pot.

If you guessed (a) Kitty litter, you’re right. Bubble Wrap® inflated cushioning, ChapStick® lip balm, and Crock-Pot® slow cooker all hold active U.S. trademark registrations. Kitty litter, marketed by Ed Lowe in 1948 as the first clay-based cat box filler, exemplifies the fate of some brand names that are ultimately popularized into commonplace generic names. An accompanying cartoon dramatizes this concept.

Trademark management cartoon

4. As outlined by a leading provider of professional trademark and copyright services, the life cycle of a trademark includes these stages:

  • a) Creation; Screening; Clearance.
  • b) Investigation; Opinion; Filing/Registration.
  • c) Protection; Maintenance; Commercial exploitation.
  • d) All of the above.

The correct answer is (d), All of the above. Once an idea for a trademark has been developed, researched, and registered, its life is dynamic. Its owner must monitor the marketplace carefully for possible infringements and renew the trademark periodically.

These latest acquisitions at Hagley present strong examples of the protection phase of trademark management. They aim to train the reader -– and the writer -- to use trademarks appropriately. They reflect a vital interest in upholding the value and uniqueness of a trademark once it has been registered by the USPTO. To explore these resources and more, try searching our catalog for Brand name products—Management, or Trademarks—United States, or Service marks—United States.


Bergerson, Stephen R. “Keeping Out of the Graveyard,” Editor & Publisher, (Dec. 10, 1994): 10T, 12T, 26T.

If We’re Not Careful, We May Need the Biggest Headache Pill in the World, ([S.l. : Xerox Corporation, 198-?]), [12] p.

Jacuzzi, Inc., How to Use Jacuzzi Whirlpool BathTrademarks, (California? : Jacuzzi Whirlpool Bath, 1980), 8 p.

Levi Strauss and Company, Trademark Handbook, (San Francisco : Levi Strauss, 1978), 16 p.

“List of Generic and Genericized Trademarks,” last modified on 30 July 2014 at 20:09,

Thomson & Thomson, Life Cycle of a Trademark, (North Quincy, Mass. : Thomson & Thomson, 1999), [6].

United States Patent and Trademark Office. “Trademark, Patent, or Copyright?” Last modified 1/18/2013.