Trademark is NOT a Verb

“We trademarked that phrase.”

“I really want to trademark this word.”

I’ve almost stopped worrying about this jarringly wrong usage.


But I can’t let it go, because it’s more than grammar.

You can say: “I want to patent this invention” because the U.S. government will actually create rights where none existed and then grant those rights to you. “Patent” as a verb means to obtain a patent for an invention.

But you can not say: “I want to trademark this word” because the U.S. government can only acknowledge rights you already have. You can say: “I want to register this trademark.”

How much does it matter? Remember Doug Lehocky, the dude who spent about $50,000 to file more than 150 applications to register things like APPLE.COM and MICHAEL JACKSON?It’s clear that Mr. Lehocky thinks the Trademark Office is like the Patent Office: You ask them to give you exclusive rights to a trademark and they conjure those rights out of air and award them to you.

But that’s not how it works. An understanding of this distinction would have saved Mr. Lehocky $50k.

To register a trademark, you first create your own rights by using the trademark to sell stuff. Then you ask the Trademark Office to check out what you’ve done. If the Trademark Office agrees you’ve created those rights, then it will register the rights so it’s easier for you to enforce them.

So don’t use “trademark” as a verb. OK?

I’ll shut up now.



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