So I got an alarming email yesterday.
It was from an entity representing another entity. The tone was polite but quite stern and told me in no uncertain terms that I was in violation of trademark laws because I mentioned the term “spending fast” in a blog post. The email requested that I remove the term from my “post, URL, tags, and anywhere else it may have been used” and that I should refrain from using it ever again, amen. The entity suggested I replace all mention of “spending fast” with the term “spending freeze” instead.
After my heart began beating again – I do so hate that feeling of being in trouble – I had a good think about this. I also did a quick Google search. Sure enough, the term is trademarked. But the English teacher/student/wordsmither in me balked – was I really in violation? Aren’t words free? What about freedom of speech? What if I liked the religious nuance of the word “fast” in juxtaposed conjunction with the word “spend” because together they create a lovely oxymoron? “Freeze” just doesn’t have the same connotation.
I shot back an equally polite and equally firm email inquiring about all this. I mentioned that the post in question didn’t even use the term as a proper noun, so was I truly in the wrong? Why couldn’t I utilize the term in the general sense, that is “spending fast” rather than “Spending Fast” (which, oddly, is how I used it in the post in question although I did capitalize the term in subsequent posts)?
The way I saw it, telling me to cease and desist is akin to telling me I can’t say “I’m gonna xerox a copy” because Xerox the company has a trademark on the term. Doesn’t it all depend on context?
I received an instant response back: “Yes, any and all uses of Spending Fast would need to be removed because of the trademark.”
Now keep in mind, I’m a complete ignoramus when it comes to laws and rules and regulations and such; these are not in my wheelhouse because I’m a high school English teacher. I’m not a professional blogger. I don’t make money from this site. I don’t come with a stable of assistants and accountants and legal counsel. Why are these facts pertinent? Because when I did a further Google search on trademark infringement, I came across this bit from Wikipedia:
Infringement may occur when one party, the “infringer”, uses a trademark which is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark owned by another party, in relation to products or services which are identical or similar to the products or services which the registration covers.
And just to clarify further, I also Wiki-ed “trademark”:
The essential function of a trademark is to exclusively identify the commercial source or origin of products or services, so a trademark, properly called, indicates source or serves as a badge of origin. In other words, trademarks serve to identify a particular business as the source of goods or services. The use of a trademark in this way is known as trademark use.
*please note the liberal use of bold is mine own and not Wikipedia; I utilize them to make a point.
If one was to get etymological on this bad boy, one can break the compound noun into the two words. “Trade” implies some form of currency exchanging hands and “mark” implies some form of stamp verification or ownership. Since I offer neither goods nor services nor have I claimed ownership of the term, I think I’m well within my rights to use it in the context of how I’d been using it.
And really am I bothering anyone? I have a steady readership of a mere 75, fer chrissake! My own students have more followers on their Instagram accounts than I do. Who the hell cares about my insignificant blog documenting my insignificant (in the grand scheme of things anyway) personal challenge?
So now I’m all riled up.
Sorry for the rant. Thanks for humoring me.
Because if you know me at all, you know I’m a rule follower and you know I’ll eventually go back and perform the very tedious task of finding every single goddamned mention of “spending fast” in over a dozen posts, tags and URLs and replacing them as per request. (Which, by the way, will make this very post sound really stupid once I make all the replacements. Or do you think I’m allowed to use “spending fast” in just this post because I’m telling a story?)
But hell if I’ll use “spending freeze”. There’s no heart or soul in that term. I think I’ll use “fiscal fast” instead. It’s alliterative and resonant and stately; I can just hear John Houseman in the background right now, espousing its virtues.
Yep, “fiscal fast”. I like it. It’s actually better than “spending fast”. I’ll happily replace the latter with the former.
Right after I do a quick Google search to see if it’s been trademarked.