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Kleenex, Scotch tape, Hoover and Google: Editor's Notes #400
September 20, 2023

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.
—Warren Buffett

In this issue:

1. On Kleenex, Scotch tape, Hoover, and Google
2. Tickled my funny bone
3. Interesting Web site
4. Writing prompt

1.On Kleenex, Scotch tape, Hoover, and Google
Kleenex facial tissue will no longer be available in Canada. That news item provoked this article because I was middle-aged before I knew that Kleenex was a Trademark. Ditto Scotch tape and Hoover. More recently, I’ve joined a huge swath of people who "google" topics on browsers with other names, and just now, I "googled" "dust buster" and was taken to a page that ranked hand-held vacuum cleaners, none of them actual Dust Busters.

Writers need to be aware of Trademarks and Trademark law. Before I knew that Kleenex was a Trademark and not a generic name for facial tissue, I may have had Lucy handing Brent a Kleenex. Jillian would have used Scotch tape instead of transparent tape and George would be been in trouble if he forgot to use the Hoover instead of the vacuum cleaner before leaving for Singapore.

Because those of you reading this comprise a worldwide audience, I won’t get into the specifics of when you can and cannot use a Trademarked name in your writing and how to signal that you have permission if that is required. You can look that up for your own jurisdiction. Just be aware that you are walking close to the bog when you inject these words into your stories.

If you go further than a casual mention and end up writing what could be interpreted as a slur against the Trademark, you could be in legal hot water. Someone who uses the Trademarked item dies; the Trademarked item fails; the Trademarked item is used by a villain; the Trademarked item is used in an unexpected way that has negative consequences.

The remedies, beyond contacting the company for permission to use the Trademark, are to use a generic name or to make up a brand name yourself. The new brand option needs a bit of research, too, or you may inadvertently invent a name someone else has already used and Trademarked. It is easy to check for Trademarks online, so do that any time you are in doubt.

2.Tickled my funny bone
The music for today's service was all composed by George Friedrich Handel in celebration of the 300th anniversary of his birth.

3. Interesting Web sites
The link here is for Trademarks specifically, but this blog has a large number of legal topics for writers. Note that the source is American. Laws differ in different jurisdictions.

The Canadian government’s pages about intellectual property include information on Trademarks. Their searchable database is a great tool.

4. Writing prompt
Write an obituary for or an ode to Kleenex or another product of your choice. I would love to see your result.

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