1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar
Source link: http://archive.mises.org/9859/whats-nexttrademarking-language-dont-be-ridiculous/

What’s Next–Trademarking Language? Don’t be Ridiculous!

April 28, 2009 by

From zenhabits: Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway (or, the Privatization of the English Language)

Post written by Leo Babauta.

Today I received an email from the lawyers of author Susan Jeffers, PhD., notifying me that I’d infringed on her trademark by inadvertently using the phrase “feel the fear and do it anyway” in my post last week, A Guide to Beating the Fears That Hold You Back.

The phrase, apparently, is the title of one of her books … a book I’d never heard of. I wasn’t referring to her book. I’m not using the phrase as a title of a book or product or to sell anything. I was just referring to something a friend said on Twitter.

Her lawyers asked me to insert the (R) symbol after the phrase, in my post, and add this sentence: “This is the registered trademark of Susan Jeffers, Ph.D. and is used with her permission.”

Yeah. I’m not gonna do that.

I find it unbelievable that a common phrase (that was used way before it was the title of any book) can be trademarked. We’re not talking about the names of products … we’re talking about the English language. You know, the words many of us use for such things as … talking, and writing, and general communication? Perhaps I’m a little behind the times, but is it really possible to claim whole chunks of the language, and force people to get permission to use the language, just in everyday speech?

What if this were taken to an extreme? What if some billionaire (say, Bill Gates) decided to start trademarking thousands and thousands of phrases, so that he could charge us for each use, or so that we’d have to link back to the Microsoft homepage with each reference? The language, in this scenario, could be entirely privatized if we allow this sort of thing.

So, while this post is probably ill-advised (and yes, I realize that I’m actually giving publicity to Ms. Jeffers), I have to object. I think we have a duty, as writers and bloggers and speakers of the English language, to defend our rights to … words. Free speech is a bit of an important concept, I think.

As an aside, I think the idea of jealously protecting copyright and trademarks, in this digital age, is outdated and ignorant. You want your ideas to spread, and you should encourage people to spread your ideas, not put up all kinds of boundaries and restrictions and obstacles to that being done. This blog, for example, is Uncopyrighted, and will always be free, because I want people to spread my posts and ideas. I think it’s actually good for me as a writer, and it’s (not insignificantly) better for the writing community in general if we can share each others’ work freely. I’m hoping that with posts like this, and the good work of thousands of other like-minded people, the old mindset of fencing off ideas and language will slowly change.

So, no, I will not be adding a Registered Trademark symbol to the previous post. And no, I won’t be adding a phrase of legalese to the post. And no, I won’t even attribute the phrase or link to her book, as I wasn’t referring to the book. And no, I won’t remove the phrase.

I’d rather be sued.

Oh, and I’m not going to change the title of this post either. You’ll have to remove it from my cold, dead iMac.

On a side note: You may feel free to use the title of my book, The Power of Less, in any of your blog posts, on Twitter or even (gasp) everyday conversation.


Conza88 April 28, 2009 at 3:45 am

You can’t own words.

It is like ideas. They are a non-scare resource. IP is full of fail. They are not subject to private ownership, NOR public ownership.

Current April 28, 2009 at 4:37 am

Due to the “Olympic games Act” in the UK it is now illegal to use the words “Summer 2012″.

What the hell are we going to call it?

jeffrey April 28, 2009 at 5:55 am

Same with “market based management” — look it up.

MarkB April 28, 2009 at 6:05 am

Sometimes I truly think® we live in some sort of Bizzaro World™.

Kudos to Leoâ„¢ Babauta for “standing firm”™®.

Personally I think the author of the book with the copyrighted title can HTFUâ„¢.

Seriously, I think people need to grow up. Copyrighting small permutations of words in the English language. Really…

And let’s not get started on Cadbury®™ purpleâ„¢.

Mike April 28, 2009 at 6:44 am

Hey, if the government can sell the EM spectrum to Google, TV networks, etc, I figure I can own the visible spectrum. You all owe me $1 for every second of visible light you use.

That’s no more absurd than owning individual words or phrases.

Current April 28, 2009 at 7:03 am

Jeffrey: “Same with “market based management” — look it up.”

That’s pretty funny actually, considering who is involved.

Peter April 28, 2009 at 7:04 am

What if some billionaire (say, Bill Gates) decided to start trademarking thousands and thousands of phrases, so that he could charge us for each use

Microsoft Bob, anyone?

Brian Macker April 28, 2009 at 7:27 am

Commenting, feel the fear and do it anyway.

Matt_R.L. April 28, 2009 at 10:15 am


It feels so liberating.


David Spellman April 28, 2009 at 12:37 pm

There is some guy who has self-published several volumes of phrases and put them in the library of congress. He searches for someone using them in corporate advertising or other commercial uses and then sues for copyright infringement. It is a great racket as he apparently has preemptively thought of a number of catchy phrases that pay his way in life from the financial settlements with unwitting corporate victims.

Daniel April 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm

This is insane… “Paris Hilton” with a Ph.d….

LibertyTiger April 28, 2009 at 3:46 pm

Monster Cables © has litigated trademark disputes against any mom and pop business with Monster in the name, including a mini-golf park and a transmission company. http://consumerist.com/search/monster%20cable/

David April 28, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Great to see this post reproduced here. Zen Habits’ post (from last year) on “Open-Source Blogging” was one of the things that really got me to start changing my attitude on the idea of zealously protecting copyrights, etc.

I think this writer (Leo) is offering a lot of people a plain-english explanation of why IP/trademark can quickly get out of hand (if you take it to its logical conclusion as some people are so eager to these days). I know he’s helped me better understand the few things I’ve managed to read here on that subject (posts by Stephen and Jeffrey, others).

Tatiana Covington February 8, 2010 at 8:57 pm

I would have said that this is utter bullshit (R), and told that Jeffers asshole (C) to fuck off (TM). But I legally can’t.

Crap. That really sucks (Pat. Pend.).

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: