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Re: DINOSAUR digest 550

Quoth Seth:

>Besides it's not like someone can copyright a common name, they'd probably
>be laughed out of court.  Even if they could it would never be enforceable.

Now, this is something I can discuss with a bit of authority. I have to
deal with this exact misconception all the time in my own business. I am
not a lawyer, but as a publisher, I have been through more trademark
disputes than many lawyers. Sigh.

We are not discussing "copyright" here, but "trademark." Very, very
different. It is quite easy to trademark a common word or name. You can
walk down any aisle of a grocery store and see examples.

The key point here is that a trademark always applies only to a certain
class of goods. A valid trademark on the name SUE with respect to fossil
materal would not affect our right to name our children Sue, to call our
cars Sue, or even to register the same name as a trademark for completely
different goods.

The commonness of the name SUE does not matter at all in trademark law. If
it is arbitrary, non-descriptive, and original WITH RESPECT TO FOSSIL
MATERIAL - and I believe it is - then it is potentially a valid trademark.
I am given to understand that the BHI registered the trademark some time

Had they been able to protect their property from the federal government,
and use it as the centerpiece of their planned museum, registering its name
as a trademark would have been good business sense.

Losing the fossil itself would not deprive them of an otherwise valid
trademark, and that would appear to have led to an interesting negotiation.
I can't blame them for trying to recover SOMETHING from their investment. I
have no idea how much they asked for, so I don't know how to characterize
the Field's apparent refusal to buy the name.

OTOH, I know many people, myself among them, hold the opinion that Sue is
stolen goods. Perhaps the Field is wise to try to change the name --
whether they can do so in the public eye or not. With a new name, they
could continue to emphasize the scientific value of the specimen, and play
down its shameful history.

No, I'm not burning my Field membership card.

 Steve Jackson - yes, of SJ Games - yes, we won the Secret Service case
  Learn Web or die - http://www.sjgames.com/ - dinosaurs, Lego, Kahlua!
          The heck with PGP keys; finger for Geek Code. Fnord.