Touch Tone Trademark Status [telecom]

Lisa Hancock asked in a reply:

When did Touch Tone lose its trademark status?

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office website search, it was officially cancelled due to "total surrender" by the (legacy) holder of the trademark (AT&T), on 13-March-1984. Note that this is shortly after the official start of divestiture (01-January-1984), some 27+ years ago.

See the following entry at the USPTO's webiste:

formatting link
also, the wikipedia entry for DTMF (Dual-Tone Multi-Frequency)
formatting link
mentions that AT&T's trademark registration for "Touch Tone" ended on 13-March-1983, as well as the website Trademarkia at the following page:
formatting link

Did any other old Bell System trademarks lose their status, too?

I don't know offhand, but I wouldn't at all be surprised if several long-time Bell System/AT&T trademarks or service marks were cancelled or abandoned or surrendered or otherwise not renewed, during the early years of post-divestiture, shortly after 01-Jan-1984.

Mark J. Cuccia markjcuccia at yahoo dot com

Reply to
Mark J. Cuccia
Loading thread data ...

This suprises me. Often companies hold on to old trademarks even if they're obsolete; perhaps some time in the future they may have some value. Sometimes years later an old name may be brought back to market a new product. Railroad companies keep logos of old lines (eg the Pennsylvania Railroad PRR-keystone) even if they freely license it out. IBM trademarks old computers long out of production.

Bell once offered a paging service, I think called Bell Boy and I think that was trademarked. I wonder if Trimline was trademarked. I think it's later line of PBX's and key systems (eg Dimension, Merlin) were trademarked.

Reply to

Is there a legal principle involved here, something along the lines of "defend it, or lose it"?

If you hang onto an unused trademark, and someone else then begins using it without permission in some particularly visible fashion, you may have to initiate some substantial action to assert your rights in that instance, or face losing those rights in any future instances.

The hassle and expense of keeping track of and responding to such unauthorized uses may cost more than any possible future value.

Reply to

Sometimes, trademarks can get in the way of understanding even the most basic things, and sometimes I think they should be declared "generic" when that happens.

For example, many years ago, when widespread famine first hit Africa, news teams assigned to the refugee camps reported that there were widespread shortages of "Cooking Oil", which (at least in the U.S.) means "Vegetable Oil", i.e., the oil used to fry food in a skillet. Activists condemned the U.S. public's ho-hum attitude about the problem until they realized that the average citizen in the U.S. thought that doing without vegetable oil wasn't that much of a hardship.

What the reporters meant to say, however, was that there was no Kerosene

- that the refugees couldn't cook their food at all, and that therefore they were suffering from food-born illness. It took an amazingly long time to correct the problem, because news editors routinely cut trademarks our of stories, and "Kerosene" is still a trademark in some parts of the world.

In time, the reporters came up with "cooking fuel" as a less-confusing alternative, but the refugees would have gotten more help sooner if everyone had just said "Kerosene", which has a consistent meaning worldwide.


** Moderator note: If whomever wrote the stuff had just *clearly* stated what the _actual_ problem was -- e.g., 'people getting sick from uncooked food because of a widespread shortage of the fuel needed to cook it' -- EVERYBODY would have understood. Color me cynical, but I suspect that 'cooking oil' language originated from amateurs -- probably _local_ relief- organization staffers or volunteers, putting out a 'press release' -- and not professional journalists. Things like this are not-infrequent occurrences, when somebody 'too close to the problem' writes about a thing and assumes things that 'everybody knows, _locally_". In, say, s semi-technical discussion group like this one) that's not necessarily unreasonable, but when speaking to/writing for the 'general public', _especially_ it is a 'stand alone' presentation, it is _vital_ to explain the 'possibly ambiguous' terms. "Cooking oil', vs 'fuel for cooking', does fall into that category, even though the 'local's probably weren't aware of it.


Reply to
Bill Horne

Actually, the problem's worse than that. Generically, in the rest of the English-speaking world, Kerosene is "paraffin". But in American English, "paraffin" refers exclusively to synthetic wax, like candle wax -- not any sort of liquid fuel or solvent.

So a parrafin/kerosene/... shortage is really a particularly vexing thing to communicate to the world of "English" speakers, whether trademarks are involved or not.

Reply to
Thor Lancelot Simon

I understand that in the railroad world, some sloppyness in maintaining old trademarks caused problems in that new people grapped an old logo and starting charging others to use it. So, companies maintain old trademarks for the very reason you state.

It's hard to imagine someone appropriating or misusing "Touch Tone", but on the other hand, anything is possible when someone wants to make a buck.

The 'baby bells' don't use the former modern Bell 'bell' logo very much, but I suspect they're not about to surrender that. It still appears on the few remaining pay phone kiosks next to the Verizon logo and also appears on the pay phone instruction card.

Reply to

The Union Pacific Railroad is very diligent in defemding the trademarks of the various railroads it has acquired over the years. It has a number of locomotives it has painted in the colors of thos railroads, and pursues anyone who uses any of those trademarks or logos, even for what seems trivial reasons. It apparently thinks it is worth it in the long run, and defending it means going after every infringer.

Wes Leatherock

Reply to
Wes Leatherock

Back around 1980, when the first cracks (soon to be deluge) began in regards to private phone ownership, there was a big advertising campaign for the "Fliphone, the brand new phone you can own!"

I vaguely recall it as being from GTE, but could easily be misremembering.

About a decade later I noticed other companies using that name and/or description. Seems the original company let the trademark lapse.

Ah, the following website has the advertising jingle. Not much other info, though:

Reply to
danny burstein

I think, but not sure, that "Flipphone" was the Trimline equivalent from GTE. Not as sleek.

The "Trimline" styling* was very popular and many phone makers made phones that looked like it. However, I recall nobody used the name "Trimline" for their competing sets, but names like "Slimline".

I think GTE developed the "Starlite" to compete with the Princess phone, but by the 1980s the Princess fell out of style.

  • I don't like using a Trimline phone these days. Many calls to businesses involve keying in extensions, multiple menu requests, or account numbers. Having the keys in the handset makes it cumbersome moving the phone back and forth from your hear. But they were a popular 1980-90s landline model.
Reply to

No, that was an early folding phone. The Trimline-alikes were Trendline and Styleline:

formatting link
R's, John

Reply to
John Levine Forums website is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here. All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.