The Psycholinguistic Basis Of Distinctiveness in Trademark Law

Syugo Hotta and Masahiro Fujita

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

 The Psycholinguistic Basis Of Distinctiveness in Trademark Law

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  • Linguistics
  • Forensic Linguistics
  • Psycholinguistics


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This article examines distinctiveness in a trademark from a psycholinguistic perspective. The proposed analysis adopts well-known linguistic concepts and principles, such as markedness and Grice's Conversational Maxims, in scrutinizing the linguistic aspects of a mark. It first shows how the proposed linguistic analysis works to identify the source of distinctiveness in a trademark and then tests the proposed analysis with a reaction time experiment in which participants are visually exposed to stimulus words that differ in their phonological, morphological, and semantic structures. The analysis aims to contribute not only to linguistics but also to trademark practice, in that it will provide more consistent and empirically grounded standards for the analysis of linguistic aspects of trademarks. Linguistics provides our tacit knowledge with a mechanism that enables us to access, understand, and present it. When research grounded in the disciplines of linguistics and cognitive science enables this tacit knowledge to manifest itself before a court, that knowledge becomes scientific evidence.

Keywords: distinctiveness; trademarks; linguistics; cognitive science; markedness; Grice's Conversational Maxims

Article.  3428 words. 

Subjects: Linguistics ; Forensic Linguistics ; Psycholinguistics

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