Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Droid! Droid! DroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroidDroid! (Yes, I'm a 3rd grader.) ( [Un]Cool Things I Never Learned In School)

You can't say Droid.

That's the uncool thing I learned recently, when I read some fine print in an ad for that new phone, which, because of trademark laws, should be called "The Phone Who Must Not Be Named," but calling it that might get me in trouble with the World's Most Unnecessarily Litigious Author.

So I don't know what to call the phone, but I know that I can't call it a Droid because George Lucas copyrighted the word "Droid."

That's what the fine print in those Droid ads says:
So everytime someone says droid they have to pay George Lucas, apparently.

I can't even believe they were able to trademark it, since as I understood it, droid was short for android, and I didn't think that you can trademark a part of a word.

But apparently you can, since the US Patent and Trademark Office ( somewhat of an authority, I guess... ) says:

A trademark includes any word, name, symbol, or device, or any combination, used, or intended to be used, in commerce to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from goods manufactured or sold by others, and to indicate the source of the goods. In short, a trademark is a brand name.

"Droid," I guess, can be trademarked in reference to the phone, or other goods, maybe -- but it wasn't, not until recently. Lucas didn't try to register "droid" for the phone until October 9, 2009, so the Droid trademark for the phone wasn't his until about two months ago.

That may not be any help if you want to make, say, a droid car, because prior to his adventures in phonery, Lucas had registered Droid as a trademark for a computer game, an entertainment news service, action figures and other toys, general housewares including pudding molds [that one's been abandoned, so if you want to make your own IG-88 pudding mold, you probably can][<<<Note: Not actual legal advice!], going back as far as 1979.

Then again, maybe you can make Droid Popcorn: Lucas wasn't the first, it seems, to try to trademark droid, anyway and wasn't the only one to ever get a trademark for it.

There was a trademark application for a droid tool that would be a:

Hand-operated, multi-function pocket tool comprising hex keys, box wrenches, spoke wrenches, socket wrenches, wheel dishing tools, spanners, knives, forks, scissors, pliers, magnifying glasses, bottle openers, can openers, nail files, tweezers, reamers, tire levers, wood saws, axes, hatches, wrenches, hammers, locking wrenches, and adjustable wrenches, hand tool for bicycles, and chain tool.

Which is now a thing I want. That trademark was filed in 2005 and abandoned in 2006.

is also a registered trademark for a chest-protector-with-neck-brace, luggage (but that one's been abandoned) and a record partnership.

There's also an Anne Droid Surveillance System trademark which has also been abandoned, so if you were going to write a series of books about a sexy robotic detective whose goal is not just to solve mysteries but also to get robots to have equal rights with humans so that she can marry her human partner, the name Anne Droid is likely available. [<<<Note: Not actual legal advice, and also my idea.]

All that droid-searching got me thinking about registering other trademarks for parts of words so that I could get rich the American way: Suing someone for taking my ideas. My first thought was this: what about, say, "Bot" for robot?

Alas, it's already registered for "flavored waters." (Bot flavored waters? I'm no marketing genius [Note: Yes, I am] but that doesn't sound very good at all: "Here's some water flavored like half a robot. And not even the good, first half.")

Alarmingly, someone also registered a trademark for Skybot, which is a little too close to Skynet for my peace of mind. They say that one's abandoned, but I'm sure it's just a ruse and I'm going to have to finish up my underground hideout sooner rather than later.

Then, as is also the American way, I got bored and gave up.

So that's what I learned today, and what I never learned in school even though I was in school in 1979: You can trademark part of a word. And also: You can't say Droid without sending George Lucas money.

Well, I'm not caving in to his tyranny. I'm going to fight this. I'm going to name my next kid "Droid."

Take that, George Lucas!

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