Fresh Cat-Box Filler!

March 7, 2013


When I was just out of diapers and working as a young newspaper reporter, we learned early on that certain commercial names likely would trigger a curious chain of events. For example, if a reporter used the term Kleenex in an article, it was quite possible the newspaper soon would receive a letter from a law firm representing the manufacturers of Kleenex. The lawyers gently would remind all that KIeenex was a registered trademark and that the generic term for their product should be used, i.e. “facial tissue.” Another sensitive trigger was Kitty Litter, or even the word “litter,” which quickly would draw the legal suggestion of “cat-box filler.” Only the greenest cub reporter truly was cowed by such missives. The lawyers were doing what they were paid to do: protect the client’s trademark. They had to produce a paper trail proving they were diligent in doing so. Otherwise, if usage were commonly adapted without protest, the trademark might cease to exist as a legal property, as Frigidaire became the accepted word for “refrigerator” to generations. Or that was the idea. I don’t know if anyone even does this anymore. I doubt it.


72 thoughts on “Fresh Cat-Box Filler!”

  1. I was Symply speaking of this with Gayle the other day(you hide the microphone pickups well JJ), there are a class of products referred to by the most popular manufacturers name versus the products name. It was the Fargone Kleenex that started the topic…

    Up heah in the Nawth(Maine today) the ice is melting from the lake, I have had a residence on this lake for 20+ years now and this is the first time I have been here for ice out…if you are a FB friend of mine there are pictures/videos posted of it happening. It was pretty kewl the day the wind was going over 40mph gusts and smashing the little “ice bergs” into each other…

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      • I had an acquaintance who opened a Cheeseburger in Paeadise in Tulsa before Buffet opened his. I was commenting on it s few weeks ago. It is still open with it’s modified sign.

        On collegr I was hiref to cartoon beer mugs with Disney charactets. They got letter and I quit.

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        • Years ago an association of dentists wanted to hold a convention for dentists from around the world and thought it would be a Good Idea to call it WorldCon. Then they got a letter pointing out that they were infringing on a trademark owned by the World Science Fiction Society. And, the Flintstones were originally going to be the Flagstones until Hanna Barbara got a letter from Mort Walker’s lawyers. The Mouse isn’t the only one guarding trademarks with tooth and claw!

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          • I didn’t say Disney was the only one defending trademarks with vigor. They’re well known for it, though, with good reason. A person who owns a copyright can choose not to pursue an infringement and that has no effect on the validity of the copyright. A person who owns a patent can choose not to pursue an infringement. But a person who owns a trademark MUST defend it or risk losing it.

  2. ? I live in a city that is headquarters to the two big “ride-sharing” companies. One of these companies seems content to have people use the company name as both a noun and a verb, but the other one sends out cease-and-desist notices if you use a coinage that sounds like their monosyllabic name, or even rhymes with it.

    One noteworthy thing about this business is that instead of some neutral term like “cat-box filler” or “facial tissue,” they want people to use their marketing departments’ happytalk phrase “ride-sharing” instead. This has become contentious as we’ve long known that no “-sharing” is going on and legislators are tripping over each other trying to coin the right wording.

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    • The word they’re looking for is “taxi” – and Uber & Lyft both swear their drivers are independent contractors, nor employees – so make every one of them get a business license, a taxi-driver’s license, register their vehicles as taxis, pay for commercial insurance (word to the wise – auto insurance policies – at least mine – have no-coverage-for-commercial-use clause, so if if one of those clowns gets in a wreck, you’re on your own), pay for the required vehicle inspections…….

      A passenger in my cab told me she took an Uber in Chicago, and the cops pulled them over, took an AK-47 & about a pound of blow out of the trunk, &, of course, hauled the driver off in cuffs.
      Another Uber driver in Chicago drove a guy around on a multi-site shooting spree.
      Here in DeKalb County, the Sheriff busted a guy running Uber in a stolen car.

      I could go on & on, but I’ll just say – protect your self, and support honest workers; call a cab!!

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      • Or take a bus or some other means of public transport. I haven’t had a credit card in years so I don’t do the car rental thing. The last couple of times I went on vacation I chose my locations for places where I could get around without a cab or a rental car. I know that isn’t possible everywhere, but it’s a lot less hassle if you can. No worry about deceptive rental contracts, bogus insurance charges, filling up the tank or paying twice the market price for gas, etc.

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        • Liked- “I gotta get a ‘like’ button!”

          (someone else’s name was in the boxes below before I fixed)

          Nancy K, there’s not a Tiberius in your family, is there? 🙂

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      • There are auto insurance companies that offer special riders on the standard policy for reasonable rates if the vehicle is used primarily for personal/family use. Our policy covered the gap created when my wife drove to/from a nursing home to convey residents to non-medical appointments, grocery shopping, etc. The organization she worked for had their own insurance that covered our car only when the clients were in the car.
         
        Another thing to note is that if you’re using your car to convey something (like a cake) to a church event, don’t tell that to the insurance company if you’re in a collision or you’ll also need that rider on the policy! Some companies are notorious for trying to find excuses not to pay out. IOW, talk to an independent agent to find a policy that works for your needs.

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  3. First, I wasn’t anyone until I filled in the blanks today.
     
    Second, I thing the lawyers for The Walt Disney Company are probably the most aggressive ones today for protecting their client’s intellectual properties.

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  4. I made one post and my information vanished right after.
    Of course cats rush for the litter after it’s cleaned. Do you want to use a toilet that hasn’t been flushed after the last two or three uses? What always strikes me funny is the way they come charging out after they’re done. I feel better after, but I’m not going to run a hundred yard dash!

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    • One of my best friends in the world is from Paris, TN. He can quote Shakespeare at the drop of a hat, but he’s never told me about his hometown’s “Kitty Litter” claim to fame!

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    • No, but the EU agency in charge of names of products has gone so far as to make it illegal for member countries to use regional names for products on similar items made elsewhere. Such as Cheddar cheese. In the EU only cheddar made within a specified geographic area of England can be labeled Cheddar. And of course in the US, Vidalia onions can only be grown around Vidalia, GA. Everywhere else they are sweet yellow onions or named for their own growing regions.

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    • In whose courts would they sue? And for what?

      to sue for trademark infringement, you have to have a trademark, and there has to be a likelihood of confusion about the origin of some good or service. (Technically, trademarks for goods and services are separate, but the law has been tending to blur the distinctions in recent decades.) If you go to Texas hoping to see the Mona Lisa or Eiffel Tower, you deserve to be disappointed. similarly, if you head off to Tennessee looking for gooey cheese or fancy bread. And the French do sue over wines. Champagne isn’t “Champagne” unless it came from Champagne. It’s “sparkling wine”.

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  5. Gallo is pretty fierce about “protecting” their wine’s name. You can’t buy Gallo playing cards in the United States, or any of a variety of non-wine Gallo brand products from Spain or elsewhere. Other chicken-branded products are apparently okay, but stay away from that Gallo chicken name.

    Locally, family and friends boycott chicken-brand wine from chicken-s**t-lawyered companies. No great sacrifice: the alternatives are better wine, if not always as cheap.

    I am rather fond of my Spanish-suited Gallo playing cards, though I have never attempted to drink them.

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  6. What about Cokes and
    CocaaCola?

    The book I am reading isrd ::”coke” referring to sodas in general. The author is Southern woman smd refers to Coke often.

    I wondered where laeyers were?

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      • My 1906 Alabama-born grandfather called every soda a cocola as long as he lived. My information wasn’t in the box, I did a refresh and it popped up. So the rest of you that show up as nobody or with an alias give it a try and let us know how that works.

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  7. It was a problem for Xerox, too, as that brand name became synonymous with “copy machine” for a time. Aspirin was originally Bayer’s trademark for the acetylsalicylic acid pain killer. Kleenex versus “facial issue” is probably one of the most enduring ones. Are Band-Aid brand “adhesive bandages” still sold? And of course there’s that famous map showing regions of the country where carbonated soft drinks are as a whole referred to as “soda”, “pop”, or Coke!

    I didn’t know that “Kitty Litter” had been a brand name, though. See! It’s a genuine problem.

    Another funny one is that Hasbro’s “Transformers” brand toys must be said to “convert” from robot to vehicle, because if “transform” were just the generic description, it would not be trademarkable.

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    • A lifetime ago, I worked for the videogame company that made “The New Zealand Story”. Except, they couldn’t get trademarks for that in the US. so the versions we published here were renamed “Kiwi Kraze”.

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  8. And a tip for anyone who uses public transport. There is a smart phone app called Moovit which is very handy. It uses your phone’s GPS to help you find the best way to get somewhere by public transport. It will tell you how far you have to walk to the nearest stop, which bus/train number you need, approximately how long till you will arrive at your destination, how many stops between your starting and ending points, etc. And it’s free.

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  9. My newspaper in Royal Oak MI in the 1960s and 70s routinely received chiding letters from the National Association of REALTORS® because we had described someone as a “realtor.” As a reporter, later an editor, I dodged the issue entirely: I referred to the person as a “real estate broker,” which I suppose is like describing someone with a Ph.D. as a college graduate. In the early days of the complaints, I think the association wanted the word in all upper-case. I dislike any all-upper-case words or initials in an article; they seem to dominate the page.

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  10. I took Trademarks in law school. They have a word for the process you’re describing, it’s genericize. Trademark lawyers do, indeed, get paid to try to prevent this from happening, and the list of former trademarked brand names that became simple words for things is a long one with some surprising entries on it, if you didn’t know the history. Cellophane used to be a trademark, and so did aspirin. Allegedly, Xerox was worried about becoming a synonum for photocopy, and Nintendo had a few moments of angst over becoming a synonym for “home videogame console”. Now they miss those days.

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  11. Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room in Tulsa, where yesterday’s high was 70. Just checked local conditions to make sure Dickens was OK outside. Noticed there is freeze warning out for tonight. And I thought the temperature swings were crazy in my neck o’ the Deep South woods.

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    • That front may be the one that just reached Raleigh. 70s today, freeze warning for tomorrow.
      The line of thunderstorms is creating some challenging traffic on the local highways. Well, that plus the radioactive cargo falling off the truck on I-95.

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      • “Way down south” in Eufaula, tonight’s forecast is for a low of only 40. Beats the spit out of the -5 we had here not long ago.

        (OK, I changed it before I posted this, but I just scored the El Primo of wrong name/address displays with this post: “Jimmy Johnson”. 😀 )

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  12. High points of my medical visits are our meals. Yesterday’s late lunch was a 1960s wedge salad, roasted pepper soup and a fantastic fresh blueberry and maple cream butter cake.

    Today was a farm spinach eggs Benedict with a side of fresh brocolli. Thank God as I got out of second appointment in time for our pork banh mi and spring rolls at 4 p.m.

    Darn we have to stay home rest of week. Ghost will cook for us. I still cannot stand for more than five minutes and with both hands on walker.

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  13. I don’t know if it is true, but, about 30 years ago, I read that Hoover went the way of Kleenex, Coke, and Aspirin.

    The Brits called all vacuums “Hoovers,” and they said that they were going to Hoover the rugs.

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  14. Frigidaire is owned by Electrolux these days. And there are still appliances made and sold under that name. My ex and I bought a front loading washer and dryer made by them over 15 years ago. She is still using them and hasn’t mentioned any problems with them to me.

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  15. My parents were married on April 1st, which became the source of many, many witticisms (or perhaps half-witticisms) from my sister and me over the years.
    Happy Anniversary, Mother and Daddy!

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    • My parent’s anniversary was on Pearl Harbor Day! But – they were married before that Day of Infamy. My sisters and I always said that the date was appropriate for the parents! Happy Anniversary to Mother Ghost and Daddy Ghost!

      BTW… it is still me in my boxes!

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      • Thanks, Gal. When “April Fool” was mentioned, my dad would often grin and say, “That’s me!” Apparently he enjoyed “playing the fool”. He and my mom celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary several months before he passed away.

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  16. Thinking about names synonymous with products made me think about “Panty Hose”. So I went and read to verify my memory.

    I personally wore garter belts and girdles longer than most women.

    Panty hose were invented in 1959 amd patented. People manufactured and broke patent, lots of legal suits went on. I remember this and the name fights.

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  17. I was going to ask if Ice Box was ever Trade Marked — but looking it up,
    no but the inventor ( allowing Thomas Jefferson use in 1805) used the
    word Refrigerator in his patented.

    I am still me (today)

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  18. When I was a kid, we colored our books with Crayolas. We ate Jello for dessert. These days, I step on Legos.
    .
    And I grew up in Oklahoma where a conversation with a waitress might go…
    “And what would you like to drink?”
    “Oh, I’ll just have a Coke.”
    “What kind?”
    “A Dr. Pepper.”

    Reply

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