PowerPoint, Professors, Names, and Trademarks....
What to name your company...especially
when your company sells another company's products?Hint #1:
Unless you have a franchise, partner, membership or other agreement with the holder of the trademark, you can't use their trademarked product name within your own company name. For example, I can't decide to be "Bergells Honda"...if I don't have a franchise arrangement with Honda Corporation to open up an auto dealership. And I can't name my site "Bergells Realtors Dot Com" if I don't have a current, active relationship with the NAR - the National Association of Realtors (believe it or not, "Realtors" is actually a trademarked name!)
So check out this recent blog titled "Professor PowerPoint is No More.
" This fellow Tom went by the name "Professor PowerPoint" for years: selling books and videos about how to use PowerPoint. And he did this without permission from Microsoft. According to Tom, Microsoft nicely asked him to stop, referring him to their preferred trademark use guidelines
And I can see from Microsoft's trademark guidelines that I'm also might be
guilty of a trademark violation -- on this very website, I frequently refer to the trademarked name "PowerPoint"... without the little "R" after it.
So: am I guilty?
My goodness, can you imagine how ugly my online articles or blogs would look if I had to put a little TM or an R or a C after every written trademark? Hideous! Imagine this --
"I drove my DaimlerChrysler(C) PT Cruiser(TM) to Walmart(C) to buy a Thermos(C) and some Spam(C). But then I got a chirp on my Nextel(C) from my client in the Systems Storage(TM) division at IBM(C), and he told me to pick up some Krispy Kreme(R) brand doughnuts on my way to the office, or else he would say 'You're Fired'(TM)."
Written communication could get real ugly, real fast!
Happily, that's why there is The Chicago Manual of Style
for journalists, teachers, and others who write publicly. Magazines and newsletters and little websites like mine would have to pay a fortune for all the extra ink and paper or server space to take up all the little Rs and Cs and TMs and such.
To gut check, I just picked up a few magazines and flipped through them. Sure enough, the articles reference PowerPoint and Microsoft and other trademarks all the time....no little Rs at all.
That's because the Chicago Manual of Style says,
"In publications that are not advertising or sales materials, all that is necessary is to use the proper spelling and capitalization of the name of the product. A trademark attorney can tell you when the use of the symbol is required."
So apparently, I can continue to write the word "PowerPoint" in articles without using the TM...as long as I'm not trying to actually sell you PowerPoint. That seems fair.
Don't buy PowerPoint.
That ought to do it! That should make Microsoft lawyers happy!
Seriously though, according to Tom, Microsoft is not aggressive about suing people who might inadvertantly break a rule or two about the use of their trademarks. But naming your website and company after a trademarked name without a business agreement is a pretty big, definite no-no. And that's not just Microsoft. That's Law 101 for everybody.
Hint #2: Since this post is getting longish, tune in to tomorrow's blog post. Here's a sneak preview: I'll give you a free audio podcast with a bonus video that shows you how to use two free (or cheap) tools that will easily let you snap up a name for your new website or business. No ad agency required, and you don't necessarily have to buy anything, either!