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I'm learning about this whole thing a little late, but I do know that the reason people so zealously guard their trademarks is that they can get taken away if you let the word fall into general usage. For instance, Murphy Beds used to be a trademark for folding beds, but it lost its special status sometime when I was in college. That's why journalists, etc say "Kleenex brand tissues" or "Scotch Brand Tape".

I'm interested in this because my friend Voltaire is going through something similar with his band name, although he's in the opposite situation. He's been using the name professionally for many years, and his band has recorded five albums under the name "Voltaire". He's not rich, but he tours like a maniac and makes enough money that he can support himself without a second job. Recently another band put up an album using the same name, and it's listed as the same artist on iTunes. From what I can tell, even if you don't trademark a product's name [in this case, a band], you can still use it, and if you get into trouble, you just prove how long you've had it and where you've used it. Luckily my friend has albums out, and he's travelled extensively to support himself. He still can't afford a lawyer, but someone suggested to him that he should go see Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. If you know anyone at any of the national stitch and bitches, could you pass that suggestion along? Maybe between those guys and someone's grandmother's yearbook, we could actually stop the SFSE people from trouncing across our favorite get togethers.


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