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January 24, 2008

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You wrote: "Kimberly-Clark, Kleenex's parent company, has applied for a trademark for the phrase "let it out."" Not so. Trademarks are not something you apply for. Kimberly-Clark has adopted the phrase "let it out" as a trademark for its line of facial tissues, and has applied to register that trademark. Assuming the registration issues, all this does is give K-C the presumptive right to be the exclusive user of that phrase in connection with the marketing of products of this specific kind. In other words, it enables K-C to stop competitors from using the same or a closely similar phrase to market similar products, creating consumer confusion. Applying to register a trademark in no way coopts a cultural meaning or attempts to take a phrase out of the language or out of its cultural context. Most importantly, it does not threaten the right of others to continue to use that phrase for its ordinary, cultural, non-commercial meaning.

Trademark lawyers are still your friends.

Hmmm. That still sounds like trouble. Not everyone can devote the same resources to arguing about what's too close a phrase and which competitors' products are similar enough and what constitutes consumer confusion.

I note Kimberley-Clark also make toilet roll and toilet tissue dispensers, and the paper to go in them. They're clever aren't they? One phrase, two contexts!

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