How to put together a real estate column on Facebook:
Richard Mize: Dear makers of Sheetrock brand gypsum wallboard:
Your Trademark Protection Legal Eagles are so quick, and threatening, fussing with formal letters full of ceases and desists at even the tiniest general use of “Sheetrock” to mean the generic “gypsum wallboard” — even in direct quotations of words spoken by others — that my editing Phaser (tm) is set to KILL every time I see “Sheetrock” mentioned anywhere in a news story, feature or syndicated column. Hope that suits y'all.
Jolene Bullock: Sheesh. Can you use the word “Kleenex,” or do you have to use “facial tissue”?
Richard Mize: Kleenex is a brand name, too. I totally respect brand names and the need to protect trademarks and such. But quoting people is what we do; if people say “Sheetrock,” I can quote them, fair and square. Same with Kleenex or any other brand. The Sheetrock people are just really hard cases, though; jumping on journalists for quoting people accurately when the marketing “problem” they face is in the common use of language itself. But I don't. If I can paraphrase, or even make it generic with a parenthetical insert, I do. USG Corp. can buy an ad. (Actually, total elimination of all non-paid-for mentions in the press seems to be USG Corp's aim; so, hey, they're happy, I'm happy.)
Richard Mize: What gets me is I got jumped once when I deliberately used “Sheetrock” because the person was by-gum talking about SHEETROCK. ...
Jolene Bullock: You're absolutely right about quoting. You'd think they'd appreciate the plug! We got into a conversation about using brand names for types of products while I was at my sister's a couple of weeks ago. “Kleenex” was one, “Coke” for any type of soda, “Red Vines” for licorice (which is SOOOO wrong!), etc. Funny how one name sticks. I didn't even know Sheetrock was a brand — until now, I thought it was a product.
(Fellow journalist friend in another state): We got jumped once by Day-Glo. Sticklers! They can put their Day-Glo Sheetrock in a Dumpster.
Richard Mize: LOL ha! ... But here's a shortlist of trademarks that have lost their trademark status from general use; I do understand the concern (from the Wikipedia entry on “Generic trademark”):
• Aspirin, originally a trademark of Bayer AG.
• Escalator, originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company.
• Heroin, originally a trademark of Bayer AG.
• Kerosene, originally a trademark of Abraham Gesner.
• Phillips-head screw, named after Henry F. Phillips.
• Pogo for the toy Pogo stick.
• Thermos, originally a trademark of Thermos.
• Yo-yo, originally a trademark of Duncan Yo-Yo Co.
• Zipper, originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich.
Jolene Bullock: That's interesting! ...
Richard Mize: Maybe I'll just use this thread as my column this week. (Maybe the Sheetrock legal team just felt a disturbance in the force ...)
Jolene Bullock: So there are no legal questions, you may quote me.
(Homebuilder marketing person): If you want to have fun, offer someone from DOW a drink in a “styrofoam cup.” They will tell you that there is no such thing. That what you are referring to is a cup made of expanded polystyrene. STYROFOAM™ is a trademark of The Dow Chemical Company and is, of course, extruded polystyrene foam currently made for thermal insulation and craft applications. I have been on the receiving end of that exact sermon when simply offering someone a drink. ...
Richard Mize: I wonder if Dixie™ makes Styrofoam™ ... uh, drink receptacles ... Aw heck, just drink directly from the Thermos! Wocka-wocka.
(Commercial real estate broker): I think I am going to Xerox the list of trademarks!
(Note to all trademark guardians: I get it. Some people don't. Maybe with this, in its entirety, some more of them will. Peace.)