WIT :: of violations and exasperation


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.

Right? Right?!

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.


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23 thoughts on “WIT :: of violations and exasperation

  1. jenortega says:

    I love it when you are feisty! Do it again!

  2. Kezzie says:

    How absolutely bloomin reeeeeediculous!!!!!!! Honestly, do you know why I think they’ve done this? Because they want to ensure if anyone googles the post, only they come up in it and so that is ridiculous to tell you to take the terms away- that’s called a monopoly (ooooh, am I not allowed to use that because it has been trademarked as a game!??!)!!! Literally, two words in the same order.You could always call it a ‘Spendin Money Fast’ (deliberate spelling mistake)
    Fiscal Fast is much more of an English teacher phrase though. Seriously over-zealous people, who sent the e-mail you want to make a fuss over the fact you chose an easy word like spending that every 5 year old could use, to trademark! Think of something cleverer, like Maricel! x

    By the way, I thought I follow you via Bloglovin but you never show up in my feed!!! I will try clicking it again!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Ha! I didn’t even think about monopoly as the board game. Sigh. It is pretty ridiculous the things people do for money, eh? The silver lining here is that I was able to come up with an infinitely better term. Necessity does breed inspiration.

      And yes, I just got a notification that you’re now following me so we can be reciprocal blog buddies now. 😀

  3. Eek! I feel your pain Maricel! I haven’t been in this identical situation, however, I’ve had things (things completely beyond my control) happen that have created similar emotions. I’ve felt outraged, but at the same time, I’ve felt the gnawing feeling of guilt. Ugh! I just hate that. It’s the guilty part that is the most unsettling emotion for me, because it is absolutely unwarranted. Unfortunately that is how I react if I get a sanctimonious communication from an ‘entity’. I’m glad you posted this; you’ve helped me to feel better about myself, and I’m hopeful that our supportive comments are like a warm cyber hug! I think you may need a new slogan to the effect that English teachers rant with dignity…I’m sure you’ll come up with something better than that, but you get my drift, yes? And really? This whole trademarking of common words is getting to be a bit troubling, is it not? The time and money spent keeping track of one’s trademark must be exhausting…

    • mtsedwards says:

      Ha! You give me too much credit. “Ranting with dignity”? More like “ranting for catharsis with an overweening fear of reprisal”. But I guess yours sounds catchier. ;p

      Ah, words! Thou shalt be the death of me! 😀

  4. Sue says:

    Oh, puh-LEEZE! I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but it seems crystal clear to me: you are not selling blog-related products or services, and you’re not even selling advertising space on your blog. This would irritate the hell out of me because you aren’t in any way, shape, or form taking anything away from the Entity.

    This reminds me of the story from five years ago when Monster Cable went after a mom-and-pop mini-golf place that had the word “Monster” in its name. Scorn for Monster Cable broke out all over: http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB123869022704882969.

    If it were me, I’d remove the tag and then tell the Entity that that should resolve the matter, as it’s patently ridiculous to tell someone she can’t string two common words together to describe her personal actions. Now I’m gonna go xerox a kleenex and have a drink from my thermos. Think Xerox, Kimberly Clark, and Thermos LLC are gonna come after me? Not a chance. They’re happy I’m using the names of their products as labels for types of products that hundreds of other manufacturers sell.

    • mtsedwards says:

      Wow! That’s a disturbing article, but enlightening nonetheless. Thanks for the intriguing read.

      And thanks for understanding my stance on this issue. You go use your kleenex in front of the xerox machine. I’ll loan you my thermos if you forget yours. 😀

  5. Patti says:

    “Fiscal Fast” is better anyway, alliteration and all. What a bunch of nonsense, anyway, and makes one want to do what Shakespeare recommended about the lawyers.

    • mtsedwards says:

      Sadly, it wasn’t a lawyer but the entity’s assistant and then the entity herself who contacted me. Makes you wonder if it was a case of over-zealousness on the former’s part and ignorance on the latter’s. I doubt either actually read my post; perhaps it just came up on a fishing expedition because I tagged it using the term.

  6. Val S says:

    I googled it and found the site, so I’m putting the link here so you don’t need to stick your neck out. (And you can delete this comment if you feel this might cause trouble.)

    I’m tempted to go leave nasty comments, but I’m not encouraging anyone else to do so…

    • mtsedwards says:

      Thanks for the back up, Val. I hope you think this way because you see the logic in my argument and not only because you’re being a supportive friend.

      I did edit a bit of your comment because I fear a flame war. I’d like to point out that the email exchange was very professional and civil, albeit unnerving and ridiculous, so I want to keep everything copacetic, at least on our end.

      And people can Google the site in question on their own if they wish.

      • Val S says:

        I do see the logic in your argument, AND I support you as a friend. It just pisses me off that people can trademark common words. If the “Entity” called her thang “Spending F**t Program” then fine – she’s identifying her program that she developed. But the two words put together, as I said, could just mean that I went shopping quickly. So a big raspberry to the Entity. :p

        • mtsedwards says:

          Preach, sistah! Thanks for the outrage; sometimes I’m not sure how to react to situations like these because my emotional compass is out of whack.

  7. Val S says:

    Oh. My. God. Who is the fascist company that thinks they can trademark a phrase and then harass ordinary people who just happen to have a clever way with words?! Now that you’ve done your homework about the stipulation that trademarks refer to goods and services, you should respond and tell them exactly what you said here.

    And what if you were talking about going shopping quickly – spending in a hurried manner, i.e., fast. Surely ordinary human beings are allowed to use that phrase. This is as bad as Beyonce (Queen F****** Bee) trying to copyright her daughter’s name!

    But fiscal fast is waaaay better anyway, so you’re a step ahead of those dolts. You’d better copyright it stat!!!

    • mtsedwards says:

      Whoa. Beyonce tried to copyright her daughter’s name?! Why are people so…so…sheesh! I’m speechless.

      Yep. Fiscal fast is definitely more my speed.

  8. Ugh, that sucks Maricel. It never would’ve occurred to me to check whether that phrase was trademarked. It’s just a description of what you’re doing: fasting (abstaining) from spending (rather than food).

    I agree with you about the religious connotations of fast over freeze. It implies that you’re trying to make a deeper change.

    I wouldn’t use spending freeze either, simply because it’s what “they” prefer. 😛

    • What if you simply didn’t capitalize it? I know you only did because it’s important to you (my dad always capitalizes important words), but I’m wondering if that’s really what the issue is? If you’d always left it lower case, would that’ve made a difference?

      Then again, I know you share my love of alliteration, so fiscal fast could work.

      • mtsedwards says:

        See, I asked about that – talked about it in paragraph 4. I guess I wasn’t clear. Was out of my mind when I wrote this last night. I’ll edit now. Thanks for the catch, beta. ;p

    • mtsedwards says:

      Down with the Man! 😀

  9. Anne the SpyGirl says:

    My goodness, that is so absurd! Fiscal fast has a good ring to it, however. Trademark it! (kidding)

    • mtsedwards says:

      Hahahahaha! Right? I totally should! Glad to see I’m not the only one who think this whole thing is slightly ridiculous. I just hope I won’t experience any fallout from my rant. :/

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