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It’s official: you can’t get Botoxed any more


June 27, 2008/6.54

Just as Google—the company that parodies its own logo—sent out notices to the media in 2006 on how to use its name, and suffered a small backlash from some quarters, Allergan is trying to protect its Botox trade mark by doing something similar.
   We received a letter from Allergan’s legal associate for the Asia–Paci?c, Nicole Wilson, today, informing us that Botox is a trade mark of her employer and that it should not be used generically to describe other botulinum toxins. This makes some sense because I am not even sure if people know Botox should refer to only the Allergan product.
   The DLE brochure included with her letter details how Aspirin, Thermos and yo-yo became generic terms and includes a how-to guide for using the Botox trade mark.
   Generally, at Lucire we will signal a proper trade mark with capitalization. Hence, we write Formica and, as you see above, Aspirin and Thermos, though yo-yo has crossed the line into everyday English for us. Search around the site or in our print magazines and I am sure you will see Latex.
   We will write Google as well, and to my knowledge, we have always written Botox with a capital.
   We are asked in the letter to put the registered trade mark symbol next to Botox, which I cannot see happening because of our own house style. Basically: if we don’t do it for ourselves, why should we do it for anyone else? It’s simply not part of regular text composition. It would only, therefore, appear in advertorial if it were something we were setting.
   And if we applied the suggested standard in a fashion magazine, we would have to see the symbol at least a dozen times per page when it comes to those pages showcasing products.
   Meanwhile, the brochure gives some interesting examples that I wonder if it will be easy to enforce them in a busy sub-editing or editing situation:

Incorrect usages
She is receiving Botox.
Botox the patient.
(The use of Botox as a verb.)
Botox’s proprietary information … (The use of Botox in the possessive.)

   We patrol the usage of our logo and name, too, telling people about the case it’s meant to be set in, so I can see where Allergan is coming from, but these are going to be tricky.
   The key to publishing is ?nding that af?nity with readers and writing in an accessible tone.
   In the ?rst example, we are meant to say, according to Allergan, ‘She is receiving Botox injections’ or ‘Botox therapy.’ Now we’re aware, we’ll keep an eye out but this is one that I think will slip through every now and then because of common usage.
   The second one will hardly occur in written text, but I have to admit to Googling things—Google says I should say, ‘search with Google’. I think any change to the Googling example has come a bit too late—but we would never talk about Googling in reference to searching in Yahoo! or Windows Live. But I can go along with this: Botox is not a verb, and it was never conceived to be a verb. Allergan has caught this in time, I believe.
   The third one is rather unreasonable, however. To say a word cannot be formed into a possessive goes a little too far. For the second example, since the trade mark was never conceived as a verb, Allergan is right to clamp down. At a stretch, the ?rst one is tolerable and even understandable. But to limit the usage of everyday English rules—that this one noun is so special that it cannot be turned into a possessive? (It also asks that it not be turned into a plural, i.e. no Botoxes.)
   We do not, for example, play the game where, if a company insists that its trade mark be all uppercase, that we follow. There is a house style here, and we would open the ?oodgates if everyone insisted on their own. Even advertisers don’t get greater accommodation: last year, we wrote Audi Allroad Quattro (Audi thinks the model’s name is all lowercase).
   However, what we can de?nitely promise Allergan is that we would never refer to a rival product or anything in the botulinum toxin category that it does not make as Botox—which is the same standard we apply to Lycra, Lurex and similar names that have either fallen, or are in danger of falling, into generic usage. But the third request is plain weird—and, as far as I know, this is the only time someone has said that their trade mark cannot be turned into a possessive.
   We’ll help Allergan, but within reason.

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culture / journalism / Lucire / media / publishing
Filed by Jack Yan

2 thoughts on ‘It’s official: you can’t get Botoxed any more

  1. Allergan has defended it’s “trademark” vigorously, but in fact, the trademark is invalid and fraudulent, the word “botox” having appeared extensively in the medical literature before Allergan filed for the trademark in 1990. This was demonstrated in the recent case Federal Klein Becker vs. Allergan, however, the settlement was sealed by the judge.

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