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What's the Plural Form of a Trademark?

What’s the plural form of a trademark?

That’s what a reader recently asked a (non-lawyer) blogger with respect to her BLUETOOTH headsets: “What’s the plural form of ‘bluetooth’ now that I have two of them?”

Trick question, of course. There is none.

It’s certainly not BLUETEETH, which is how the blogger responded, after correctly noting that “[t]echnically and unfortunately the pluralized form should be ‘two Bluetooth earpieces.’”

The blogger went on to explain: “In the same way that Xerox, Coke, and Kleenex became synonymous for what their product actually is, Bluetooth has succeeded in being a popular trademark turned into a household name.”

I’m sure Xerox Corp., The Coca-Cola Co., Kimberly Clarke Corp., and Bluetooth SIG, Inc. would beg to differ. Not with their trademarks becoming household names (i.e., famous), but with their marks becoming synonymous for what their products actually are (i.e., generic) — which would render their trademarks unprotectable and hence worthless.

I agree it’s a mouthful to say “two Bluetooth earpieces.” And I’m not one to pick on other people’s (or peoples’) grammar. But using a trademark the right way emphasizes that it is someone’s proprietary brand, not a common word that stands for a type of good.

If everyone understands “coke” to mean soft drink, I need to (1) order a “coke,” and then (2) clarify that I specifically want the cola drink made by The Coca-Cola Company. That’s way too much work!

Now, I don’t order a “COCA-COLA brand soft drink” any more than the next guy. But think of all the information you convey when you put the almost magical efficiency of trademarks to their proper use.

Posted on August 4, 2008 by Registered CommenterMichael Atkins in | Comments2 Comments

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Reader Comments (2)

In this usage, Bluetooth isn't analagous to Coke. Bluetooth identifies the communication technology. Using "Bluetooth" as short for "Bluetooth headset" is analogous to using "usb" or "flash" as short for "usb flash drive".

Of course, sometimes things like this happen like "wireless" for "wireless telegraph" but I doubt that will happen for Bluetooth given that there already are Bluetooth headsets, keyboards, mice, cameras, printers, game controllers, thermometers, etc.
August 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVroo
but then what is the plural? all you have done is danced around the question!!!
September 24, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCamaryn

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