Research Summary September 2010

This summer afforded me an excellent opportunity to begin research on my Honors Thesis from May through August. I had the opportunity to stay at William & Mary and have frequent meetings with my primary thesis adviser, Dr. Anne H. Charity Hudley, and access the variety of resources provided by both Swem Library and the Law Library.

The summer provided me with the opportunity to assemble my thesis committee, which also consists of W&M Law Professor Laura Heymann and W&M Linguistics and English Professor Talbot J. Taylor.

My summer research allowed me to explore a number of topics through a literature review. These included conceptions of brand, how brand is created and valued, the intangibles of brand, and how trademarks are tailored in ways that attempt to convince consumers to ‘buy into the brand.’ Other topics explored include various notions of how the lexicon is organized, stored, and interpreted within the brain. Recently, I have also delved into literature involving the notion of integrationism in linguistics (as opposed to the more orthodox ‘segregational’ linguistics), doing so in an attempt to understand how certain linguists understand the determinacy (or lack thereof) of linguistic signs in a semiotic framework within the world.

My research currently involves looking into issues of definition and lexicography including definition techniques, the role of dictionary entries in court cases (specifically trademark related), and how this is in line with current sociolinguistic thought. My current readings also focus specifically in on the way in which the Doctrine of Foreign Equivalents within trademark law works and the perceived shortcomings that it has with regards to its application for foreign language marks.

My summer research regarding brands allowed me to recognize that there are a number of conflicting ways in which intellectual property lawyers and courts, as opposed to marketers, approach brand. Regarding the mental lexicon and indeterminacy, it has also allowed me to recognize that potential for confusion and issues of context can occur at any level, from phonetics and pronunciation all the way up through semantics and meaning. Additionally, consumers can become confused that a product is the same as well as potentially becoming confused as to the origin of the product, mistaking two differing companies from being the same. These are some of the problems that have arisen in addition to the original problems stated out which included:

-“Should a mark’s descriptiveness or suggestiveness be considered from the perspective of speakers of the country where the protection is sought or from those who speak the foreign language itself?” (Shuy 144).
-“Can a mark be descriptive or suggestive in English when it is not in French, Spanish, or Arabic?” (Shuy 144).
-“Is a French name for expensive perfumes more suggestive than the English translation of that mark?” (Shuy 144).

Upon further literature review and organization and synthesis of key concepts, I hope to potentially explore the possibility of conducting interviews and research through the use of focus groups of students on campus to gauge the way they interact with brands and trademarks, especially those which are in foreign languages.

The summer provided me with the opportunity to explore a variety of the issues that pertain to trademark law and linguistics and find issue areas for further study as well as ways in which my topic might be constrained into a manageable thesis. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the ability to conduct research into the scholarly work that makes up a bulk of thinking on the subject and look forward to the ability to continue research in a variety ways throughout the upcoming year.


Works Cited:

Shuy, Roger. (2002). Linguistic Battles in Trademark Disputes. New York: MacMillan.