If, like me, you’re highly connected to the internet, then you’ve probably run across the story about a certain mobile game maker patenting a specific word (I won’t say the word here, because I don’t want to run afoul of copyright law, which is a thing I clearly don’t understand well), thereby preventing other game makers from using said word in future products. If you aren’t connected to the internet, then I’d like to personally thank whoever printed out this page and handed it to you, and now catch you up on the story. See, a popular mobile game maker, known for making games that crush the souls (or at least savings accounts) of their users, has successfully patented a word that is part of the title of one of its most popular games. This word is synonymous with chocolate, lollipops, jelly beans, and, somehow, butterscotch drops (I may not understand copyright, but I have a working knowledge of synonym). Naturally, bolstered by their ability to patent one word, they are looking to advance their cause, and potentially trademark EVERY word loosely affiliated with their products, and are looking to uphold future trademarks. Of course, this is all done under the guise of “protecting their intellectual property”, and it’s fairly common in the world of business, but at least Kleenex had the wisdom to trademark a word not used in common parlance (because they made it up).
Now, I’m certainly not going to go around copyrighting words, because, well, words should be shared by everyone, and I’m not out to make a quick buck by stopping others from using such words (I totally would be, if I actually thought there would be anything “quick” or “buck”-like about it). The fact remains that there ARE people, whether on behalf of a company, or acting as individuals, who will decide to go to the extreme measure of getting a word trademarked so that others can’t use it without running afoul of some potentially nasty legal proceedings. If you are looking to follow this particular course of action, might I give a few pieces of advice?
1. Choose a word almost never used.
If it’s a made-up word, even better. Words that don’t get used often mean that you won’t have to spend time protecting your copyright. Of course, you won’t get the joy of crushing anyone who decides to let their freak flag fly in the face of your copyright, but it really saves a lot of legwork.
2. Alternately, choose a word that’s used ALL THE TIME.
If you want to go this route, I would suggest grabbing “the”, except this is the age of the internet, and, well, in a few years, only old people will still be using “the”. So, instead, choose a word like “me”, because, if you’re copyrighting a word, you probably live in America, and this word is not going to go out of style in this country any time soon.
3. Make sure that your lawyers ALSO refrain from using your word.
Just because you’re paying them the big bucks (or, getting them to work pro bono because you’ve got blackmail materials) doesn’t mean that they should be held to a lower standard. In fact, hold them to a higher standard. Maybe see if you can keep them from not only using your word, but also all of the letters that make it.
4. Perhaps, pick a word that people just shouldn’t use any more.
You know, words like “smegma”. Or “moist”. Or “jeggings”. And don’t even try to tell me that these words don’t tend to bring about the same reactions in anyone hearing them. You’ll get the fun of both defending your copyright claim, and you’ll get the added bonus of eradicating some terrible words from general use.
5. Seriously, think about what you’re doing.
After all, you’re planning on filing for a copyright claim on a word. Sure, it might be tied only to specific usages of the word, but, if enough people follow suit (and get rewarded with an approved claim), then there’s a chance that the use of these words WILL eventually be outlawed to all but those who can show they’ve filed the proper paperwork. It can only lead to a dystopian wasteland, with people wandering around, speaking in broken sentences, trying to avoid any word that will bring about the officers from the Department of Language and Not Sharing. Store shelves will be stripped bare, because the words to replenish stock will be held in the lofty hands of the wealthiest of wordsmiths. The very meaning of language will be destroyed, and all we, as a society, will be left with, are emojis and texting shorthand.
So, really, when you think about it, we’ve already started on that grand voyage. At least until someone copyrights a picture of a smiling piece of poo.