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Oklahoma Facebook thread sews ups the Sheetrock issue

You might be surprised what consumer products and materials are trademarked, and what aren't any longer.
BY RICHARD MIZE Real Estate Editor richardmize@opubco.com Published: May 11, 2013
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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.

Love, Me

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”):

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