March 31, 2014

You know that little icon ® ?

Registered trademark. Means others cannot use it – or there’s only limited usage.

I understand why. I understand why it’s important in  many cases. But sometimes? Absurd? Arrogant? Just plan silly?

Check out Phrase-hoarding. Geoffrey K. Pullum, in “Language Log” asks: “What do the following phrases or sayings have in common?” The answer: registered trademarks. Yes. The phrases below are trademarked by various colleges and universities.

  • first-year experience
  • fast-track MBA
  • touched by a nurse
  • imagination beyond measure
  • tomorrow starts here
  • we’re conquering cancer

How can this possibly be true? I mean really…. How many of us have ever used the word “fast-track” and put it in front of another word? How many of us have used the phrase “we’re conquering…” poverty, malaria, HIV/AIDs… But oh my gosh, don’t say “cancer,” because you could be sued.

Have you ever seen examples like this –  in the nonprofit sector? in the field of fundraising? Once, someone actually suggested to me that I trademark “keep your donors.” Really? Who hasn’t ever used that phrase?

P.S. Thanks to Charles Green for the Language Log tip. Check out Green’s Trusted Advisor e-news.

Filed under: Leadership

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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