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Fighting over WordsLanguage and Civil Law Cases$
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Roger W. Shuy

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195328837

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195328837.001.0001

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Battle over Antifreeze

Battle over Antifreeze

Warren Distribution v. Prestone Products Corporation

Chapter:
(p.189) CHAPTER 17 Battle over Antifreeze
Source:
Fighting over Words
Author(s):

Roger W. Shuy (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195328837.003.0018

A large manufacturer of antifreeze named its new product LongLife 460, while a smaller competitor had already marketed its product under the name LongLife. The smaller company sued the larger one, charging that consumers would likely be confused. The major issue to be resolved was whether the name was generic, which could open it to use by others, or whether it was suggestive, which could mean that the original user could protect its use. The language data in this case consisted of dictionary entries, product labels, press releases, and media references. Because no dictionary listed “long life” as a single entry, the defendant tried to cite the words separately to show that the meaning was generic. It also cited “long-lived,” which was shown to be grammatically nonequivalent, and cited the only one of the eighteen dictionary senses of “life” that referred to inanimate life, the one that suited its case best. But this example actually showed the metaphoric nature of the expression, indicating that it was suggestive. The defendant also argued that the expression “long life” was the generic term for a class of antifreeze products, concluding that both products had generic names that were not protectable. Electronic searches showed this not to be the case, with the most common reference to the class of products being “extended life products,” not “long life products.”

Keywords:   antifreeze, generic, suggestive, dictionary, metaphoric, electronic searches, protectable

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