Intellectual Property Forums (

(Message started by: Crpdeth on Oct 28th, 2005, 12:13pm)

Title: This MUST be one of those "silly questions".
Post by Crpdeth on Oct 28th, 2005, 12:13pm
First of all I LOVE the site! So full of information for inventors which is another huge interest of mine...I'm sure I'll be bugging you with questions pertaining to that field in short order. As I have been intently searching this site for hours and find you an extreamly intelligent group ;D

My "Silly Question" of the day is, Can you patent or copyright a thought (quote)? The reason for my asking is that I periodically come up with these quotes and I wonder how people who are not famous/actors ect, get recognition for such sayings...

Thanks in advance!


Title: Re: This MUST be one of those "silly question
Post by T on Oct 28th, 2005, 12:36pm
Short answer: Unless used in business, for trademark purposes, no.

Title: Re: This MUST be one of those "silly question
Post by JimIvey on Oct 28th, 2005, 1:02pm
T's right -- use is required for trademark protection.  Trademarks are labels by which goods/services are linked with their supplier.  Think of Coca-Cola (which is descriptive, by the way) vs. Pepsi Cola.  If you care which one you get, you're using the trademarks.  If you don't care which you get, you're thinking generically.

Let's look at other possibilities for IP in a sentence or two.  Bear in mind that I do patents, so I may be a bit "off" on the other topics.

Copyright:  It's possible to have protectable rights there.  You need to have enough "expression" to have protectable rights.  You won't be able to get broad protection on the "idea" behind the expression.  Of course, copyright people toss around "expression" and "idea" as if they're well-understood.  I find the distinction a bit vague.  Here's an example that's probably in the grey area.  I've seen a sweatshirt with the text "Slower Minds Keep Right" in a design resembling a traffic sign.  I've seen a T-shirt (which I believe to from a different source) with the same design but just slightly different text: "Slow Minds Keep To The Right".  I have no idea whether they were independently created (a defense to copyright infringement) or who created first (also important in copyright).  The idea is the same -- adapt a road sign to make a political message: particularly playing off the "slower traffic keep right" sign and the dual meanings of "right".  The expression of that idea is different (perhaps reflecting different expressions of road signs in different regions).  Now, how different is different enough?  I don't know.

Patents:  no dice.  You're going need more than a sentence or two and much more than words before you can even begin to consder patent protection.

Trade secret:  There are only two problems with trade secret protection for a clever quote.  First, is has to be kept secret.  That seems inherently incompatible with a "famous" quote.  Second, it has to have commercial value.  Your quote won't have commercial value if it's secret (I assume).

There are various other forms of intellectual property as well, but I don't think any apply.

As to how people get recognition for quotes, say a lot of clever things in public forums (and be famous for other reasons -- it can't hurt), and someone is bound to pick up a particularly clever thing you said and repeat it.  Easy.  ;-)

If you think your quotes might catch attention and bring you fame, there's a simple way to start selling stuff with your quotes on them --  In fact, that's where I saw the sweatshirt (  I saw the T-shirt on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley (no surprise there).


Title: Re: This MUST be one of those "silly question
Post by Crpdeth on Oct 28th, 2005, 3:00pm
Oh wow, thank you so much for the thought and effort involved in respond to my question Mr Ivey, I for one do not think that my question deserved so much of your attention, I appreciate it more than you know.

I guess the egotistical side of me would hate to "share" something only to see it used somewhere in the future and no one believe the origin of it, but that really isan't me for the most part, in fact I feel kinda selfish withholding writings, thoughts and such and feel foolish for wanting credit for them if they were to become well used...I like to write and maybe I should just enjoy it and stop stressing about it.

Thanks again...


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