4. Legal Guidelines


A trademark is a word, phrase, name, symbol, logo - or a combination of these elements - adopted and used by a company to identify its particular brand of products and services, and to distinguish them from those of other companies.

A trade name is the name of a company or its abbreviation under which business activity is conducted. Do not place a (TM) (for trademark) or®(for registered trademark) symbol after a trade name. Some names, though, may be used in either category. For example, Sun is the trade name of a company (Sun Microsystems, Inc.), but Sun(TM) is also the trademark for that company's line of products. Whether to use the (TM) designation depends upon the particular reference being made.

A service mark is the same as a trademark except that it distinguishes and identifies the source of a service rather than a product. Service marks usually appear in advertising for the service. Use a superscripted SM symbol for service marks.

Types of Trademarks

Trademarks fall into two major categories:

Both types of trademarks are protectable. Registered trademarks, however, are subject to stronger enforcement measures and may be required in certain countries to prevent other parties from "pirating" your trademarks (which, in some cases, could mean disruption of shipments of your products).

Proper Use of Trademarks

The scope and strength of a company's exclusive rights to its trademarks may be weakened if they are not used properly, even if they are registered. A number of well-known names - such as "escalator," "aspirin," and "cellophane" - were once trademarks, but those names have fallen into such common use that they now may be used by anyone.

All of your company trademarks should have:

After the first proper designation, use the trademark name as a proper adjective, without the®or (TM) symbol.

To protect trademarks:

    If you are in doubt about which symbol to use, ask your legal department.

    Don't use trademarks as nouns. Trademarks are proper adjectives and should always be used with the common noun that they modify (for example, "PowerPC(TM) microprocessor," "FrameMaker®software," and "OpenWindows(TM) environment").

    There is one exception often made to this rule. If the trademark itself includes some sort of descriptive or generic component, and thus creates a redundancy in writing, the trademark may be used by some companies as a singular noun. "PacerPrint®" and "ClickArt®" are examples of trademarked product names that might fall under this rule, so you wouldn't have to continually write "PacerPrint printer" and "ClickArt art."

    Form the possessive or plural from the common noun that the trademark describes (see "Common Nouns Used With Trademarks").

    Wrong: My dog ate the Macintosh's microphone.
    Right: My dog ate the Macintosh computer's microphone.

    Wrong: UNIX is fun and easy to learn.
    Right: The UNIX system is fun and easy to learn.

    Wrong: Turn off your Selectric.
    Right: Turn off your Selectric typewriter.

Common Nouns Used With Trademarks

Trademarks are proper adjectives. As such, they modify nouns. The term common noun (sometimes called generic noun) refers to the noun that a trademark describes. Always link a trademark with an appropriate common noun. Do not capitalize the common noun.

Under some circumstances, certain trademarks may be used as singular nouns. See "Proper Use of Trademarks" for more information.

Here are some examples of frequently used common nouns in the computer industry:

application                     interface              screen
architecture                    kernel                 server
client/server systems           machine                software
distributed computing solution  operating environment  system
environment                     operating system       system software
equipment                       package                technology
features                        peripheral             tool
files                           platform               unit
graphical user interface (GUI)  printer                window environment
hardware                        program                workstation

Using common nouns in place of trademarks can be effective, but make sure that the reader is clear about the product to which you are referring. For example, in many cases "operating system" is a useful replacement for "SunOS(TM) 5.x system software." However, if you are comparing the SunOS 5.x software with another operating system, this will not work. In such cases, continue to include the trademarked product name with the common noun. Similarly, be careful using such words as "application" or "toolkit" by themselves.

If you use a common noun, define it and then use it consistently. Repeat the definition after each major head if it will help readers who are retrieving the information on line. If the context of the reference is obvious to the reader, you do not need to repeat the common noun's definition too often.

Proper Use of Third-Party Trademarks

Treat third-party trademarks (trademarks from other companies) with the same respect as trademarks from your company - as proper adjectives with the correct®or (TM) notices - and give them appropriate attribution as trademarks.

      All other product names mentioned herein are the trademarks of their respective owners.