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Saturday, March 31, 2012

Trademarks, Capitals, and Facebook

It has been reported that Facebook has demanded that its users not use the generic word "book" when naming their businesses

And one of my writing friends Morgan Mandel (author of Forever Young) commented, "That's ridiculous, since Book has been in common usage for businesses for years before their company began. I'm not a lawyer, but isn't there some kind of law about previous use?" She goes on to say, "[Facebook] will not be in the good graces of many people if this holds up."

Here's my nonlegal take on it that topic. It's not that Facebook is co-opting the word "book" as theirs. They just don't want people to start shortening "Facebook" to "Book" because they don't want to lose their brand identity. I hadn't seen that happening, anyway! There is a huge difference between "book" and "Book." That's what grammar does for us! (-: Or maybe, if it’s going to happen anyway (see below), they want some leverage.

Traditionally (we could say linguistically) it has been impossible to stem a flow in language once it has gotten a start. Example: The French tried to keep Americanisms out of their language. OK. They've had some success, but only some. And look what happened when we were mad at the French and some ninny (a politician, I think) decided we shouldn't call French fries French fries. Ahem! You can see how far that got them! (-:

I personally use FB for Facebook when I want to shorten it. I wonder if they object to that? If so they should run off and get that trademarked, like now!

For the time being, I think we're safe using the word "book." Ha!

Can any of my blog users think of other ways that brandnames have been diluted by incorrect usage. One of them is Kleenex for facial tissue. When we use it (either capped or lower case) for the generic, we infringe on their marketing efforts to build a brand. Do you remember when Kleenex was the only tissue that had "pop-up" tissues? When that patent expired they lost much of their identity. They've fought like heck to avoid having their brandname turn to slush.

We writers can use brandnames in our writing, contrary to popular belief. We just have to be sure we cap it. And it doesn't hurt to have a general disclaimer on our copyright page, too.

----- Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

1 comment:

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Good explanation. Thanks,

Jacqueline Seewald
book author

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