Trademarks as Symbolic Links

by on August 28, 2008 · 9 comments

As I said in my last post, Lindberg uses a number of computer metaphors to explain legal concepts. Here’s one I thought was particularly clever:

The shortcut in Figure 5-1 [a screenshot of the Firefox shortcut on a Windows desktop] is not the Firefox web browser itself. Rather, this icon is associated with a shortcut, or link. It points to the real executable file, which is located somewhere else on the disk. Without the linked application, the shortcut has no purpose. In fact, in Windows, a shortcut without a properly linked application reverts to a generic icon. It is the linked aplication that gives the shortcut both its appearance and its meaning.

Like the shortcut icon, a trademark is a symbol that is linked in the mind of consumers with a real company or with real products and services. WIthout the association of the symbol with the real product, service, or company, the symbols that we currently recognize as trademarks would be nothing but small, unrelated bits of art. The purpose of the trademark is to be a pointer to the larger “real” entity that the trademark represents. It is the larger entity that defines the trademark and gives it form and meaning.

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