Can you trademark a Language?

Have you ever tried to trademark a language?

Try searching on Trademarkia.com for the name of the language you speak, chances are that someone has applied for it, albeit perhaps not in the same category as communication services or paper goods and printed matter. You can search in other categories, I mentioned the above two as I thought they would be closest to describing that the term is a language.

I was curious to know if the language of love – “FRANCAIS”  was registered and but of course it was, only not in the above mentioned categories. Don’t believe me? Do take a look for yourself. Ok, images_francaisadmitted the spelling of the search term is how the natives would spell their language. For our satisfaction lets try the search with the american term for Francais – in other words, “FRENCH”, and here we go over 10 pages of search results beckon you!

Try searching for the term “German” and once more Trademarkia does not disappoint. I wonder what would happen once Trademarkia launches its search feature for other countries! Would we receive more results, only time can tell.

If you aren’t fans of other languages and would rather stick to the one I’m writing in, we get a page worth of good results for the term ” ENGLISH”.

Although, once those words become common and broadly used, their former owners lose the protection of the trademark, as language belongs to everybody. Again the names of languages may not be easily allowed to be filed with under the category of communication services as it may be considered descriptive.

So  when we  say “go and Google it”, or ask somebody to “Xerox that for you”, we are actually using company’s name as a verb and that opens a totally different perspective for the use of language and branding. However if you would notice Xerox has let a few of its trademark applications become abandoned.

As language is communication and in this age, we do not speak we type in, tweet in, update, term it what you wish, the fact remains that programming languages are the key. Although Apple does not seem to be keen on pursuing its trademark application for “HYPERTALK”. The mark was registered on 8/8/1989 and the US Federal registration number assigned to it was 1550812.

We found that Apple sent a communication to the USPTO on 23-Aug-1994 stating clearly that and I quote, “Paul D. Carmichael, Assistant Secretary of Apple Computer, In., being hereby warned that willful false statements and the like so made are punishable by fine or imprisonment, or both, ….and that such willful false statements may jeopardize the validity of this document, declares that Apple Computer, Inc. owns the above identified registration issued MAY 30, 1989,… that the mark shown therein has been in continuous use in interstate commerce for five consecutive years from the date of the regismtion or the date of publication under Section 12(c)(6) to the present, on or in connection with COMPUTER PROGRAMS FOR USE IN THE FIELDS OF BUSINESS, GOVERNMENT, EDUCATION hcgs-beginnersAND SCIENCE that such mark is still in use in interstate commerce; that such mark is still in use as evidenced by the specimen included showing the mark as currently used; that there has been no final decision adverse to registrant’s claim of ownership of such mark for such goods or services, or to registrant’s right to register the same or to keep the same on the register; that there is no proceeding involving said rights pending and not disposed of either in the Patent and Trademark Office or in the courts;

So what has changed between then and now? Is it the fact that “HYPERCARD” has replaced “HYPERTALK”?Alongwith abandoning “HYPERTALK” Apple has let its mark “EDVIEW” become abandoned, bearing US serial number 78041936 filed with description,  “ducational information in the nature of an online reference library in the fields of applied sciences, computers and technology, English and language arts, health, home and family life, science, sports, hobbies, games and learning tools, employment, colleges, arts, history, mathematics, social issues, business and economics, news, government and politics…”
It isn’t just Apple that applies to trademark its programming languages, Microsoft has registered its trademark of “VISUAL BASIC” which has the US Federal registration number 1787376 and was filed with the description : computer programs; namely, utility programs, language processors and interpreters, and documentation sold therewith as a unit.

CodeGear had also applied for its mark C++ BUILDER having trademark serial number of 75215051 with the description, “computer programs, namely, compilers; assemblers; visual development tools for use in creating applications and other programs and for developing graphical user interfaces; application development tools for use in developing user-specific applications and general purpose applications programs; database management programs, namely, database development, database implementation…”

As of May 21 2008 it has been accepted and acknowledged by the USPTO deeming it worthy to be registered as a trademark.

Any other languages in mind to trademark? Do go ahead and conduct a fun-filled search. As a parting shot, even “ESPERANTO” has its own page worth of trademark applications.

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