Using Linguistics in Trademark Cases

Roger W. Shuy

in The Oxford Handbook of Language and Law

Published in print March 2012 | ISBN: 9780199572120
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Linguistics

Using Linguistics in Trademark Cases

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics



Lawyers' training, concepts, and content cause them to think about and deal with categories such as trademarks, product liability, contracts, wills, copyrights, defamation, bribery, murder, and other types of cases that they learnt in law school. It is safe to say that they are not dealing with or even thinking about the linguistic categories of syntax, phonology, semantics, speech acts, discourse analysis, or dialects in the same way linguists think about and use them. One of the current useful applications of linguistics to law is in trademark disputes, where the legal issues offer a good fit for linguistic tools. The ongoing efforts of The International Trademark Association show hopeful signs that lawyers are making steady progress towards standardizing trademark law and procedures throughout the world, making this a fruitful area for international applications of linguistics. This article examines lawyers' perspectives on trademarks and discusses different trademark categories such as generic marks, descriptive marks, and suggestive marks. It also discusses the use of phonetics, grammar, semantics, and graphemics to resolve trademark disputes.

Keywords: linguistics; trademarks; trademark law; trademark disputes; lawyers; phonetics; grammar; semantics; graphemics; generic marks

Article.  6263 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics

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