Is the Smores Name Copyrighted?

Girl eating smores
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The word s'mores has been around since at least 1927, when a Girl Scout cookbook used the portmanteau to refer to the delicious combination of graham crackers, marshmallows and chocolate. The word -- actually a combination of "some" and "more" -- was developed by campers in the early 20th century to describe the treat made with marshmallows, a new treat at the time. But though s'mores are central to dozens of copyrighted and trademarked works, the word itself has not been copyrighted. It is almost impossible to copyright or trademark a word that has made its way into common usage.

What Is a Copyright?

The word "s'mores" is not protected by copyright. A copyright protects original works of art such as writing, songs, lyrics or paintings. But the copyright applies only to the entire work. According to the law, you cannot stop someone from using specific words or phrases found in your work. You also cannot copyright a single word or phrase to prevent others from using it.

Copyright Versus Trademark

There are several differences between a copyright and a trademark. A trademark can be obtained for a logo that appears on specific goods or services. Once a company trademarks its name, you cannot use a trademarked name to refer to a generic product. For example, you cannot use the word "Kleenex" to refer to tissues that are not specifically "Kleenex" brand.

Trademarking the Title S'mores

There are several company trademarks that include the word "s'mores." However, these trademarks protect only the specific logo that the company uses, not the word. A trademark only protects words that are not in common use. So you cannot trademark the word "s'mores," even if you include the word in your company name. The Houghton Elevator Company ran into this problem when they trademarked the word "escalator." The word became popular, and people began using to describe all kinds of moving stairs. As a result, the word became generic and the company lost its trademark.

Searching for Trademarks

To find out whether a word or logo has been trademarked, you can search online on the Trademark Electronic Search Service, which is linked in the references. Select "simple word search." Enter the word you want to search as the "search term." In the Field, select "combined word mark." This will turn up all trademarks that include the word you're curious about.

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