Microsoft Trademarks the Trademark Symbol

By Vince Sabio

REDMOND, Wash (UPI) - Software and marketing giant Microsoft Corporation (MSFT) announced today that it has purchased the rights to the well-known "trademark" symbol, formerly denoted as "tm" in most print media.

The symbol is commonly used to identify commercial product names that have not yet been registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

"It was a natural," commented John Schexnader, of Microsoft's Ministry of Information. "Several of us were sitting around after a board meeting a few months ago, and we were talking about what we should buy next. We were tossing around the idea of purchasing a country or two in South America, as kind of a follow-up to Sun Microsystems' trademark-infringement claim against The Island Formerly Known As Java., when it occurred to us that there are no countries named 'ActiveX.' We tossed around the idea of changing the name of 'ActiveX' to 'Chile' or 'Brazil' -- which also help distance it from the recently-uncovered security holes -- when someone joked that we'd save a lot of time and effort in the long run if we just trademarked the trademark symbol."

Schexnader continued, "Initially, we all laughed -- but one look at Bill's face, and we knew we'd be on the phone with the Patent and Trademark Office in the morning."

Microsoft hasn't wasted any time enforcing the new trademark. According Rue B. Goldberg, an attorney with Microsoft's Ministry of Litigation and Law Enforcement, "Use of the 'tm' symbol will now be restricted to Microsoft and its subsidiaries, like the Catholic Church."

But companies wishing to use the '(tm)' symbol will not be left out in the cold; according to Goldberg, Microsoft has developed a new symbol, '(tMS)', to replace the now-restricted '(tm)' symbol.

"Anyone will be able to use the new symbol, royalty-free," states Goldberg, "though Microsoft reserves the right to charge for its use in the future."

Response to the announcement was varied. Apple Computer CEO Gil Amelio vowed to take the issue to court, stating, "Apple Computer developed the technology for the trademark symbol more than ten years ago," but refused to give any details on the exact nature of the lawsuit.

Meanwhile, Times-Mirror Publishing, Ziff-Davis, the L.A. Times, the N.Y. Times, CNN, the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Kathy Lee Gifford all agreed that it was a landmark move. According to William Spangler, Electronics and Pet Food Editor for the Boston Globe, "[Microsoft's] recent acquisition of the trademark symbol will benefit computer users around the globe. It's a technological breakthrough. As always, the rest of the companies out there are straining to play catch-up."

So, what does the future hold for Microsoft and its latest acquisition? Microsoft Ministry of Information spokeswoman Alice Gilbert says that Microsoft is moving quickly on similar purchases. "Our next [acquisition] will be the 'service mark' symbol. We already have the paperwork in place for it." Gilbert stated that the new symbol would be 'sMS', following the trend set by the new trademark symbol.

"It's a natural for us," concluded Gilbert. But apparently, the sky is not the limit at Microsoft. "We'd also looked into acquiring the rights to the 'registered' trademark symbol, but several representatives from the Ministry of Technology determined that doing so would lead to an infinite loop in the trademark registry -- and the only place where we permit infinite loops is in our software. Our standards are very high here at Microsoft."

But that fact has not deterred the software and marketing giant. "Instead, we're looking into purchasing the entire Patent and Trademark Office," stated Schexnader.

No one at the Patent and Trademark Office could be reached for comment Tuesday.

Copyright 1997 by Vincent Sabio, HumourNet Communications Ltd. All Rights Reserved; permission is hereby granted to forward or post "Microsoft Trademarks the Trademark Symbol," provided that the by-line (above) and this copyright statement are included.


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