January 12, 2011, 1:27 PM — If you have a few minutes today, you should send a note thanking Microsoft for opposing Apple's rampant annexation of ordinary terms found in any dictionary by contesting the trademark protections on the phrase "Apple store."
Microsoft contends the term is generic because -- aside from "Apple," which is trademarked as the name of a computer company but not in other contexts -- the phrase could describe any retail outlet that sells, for example, fruit.
The effort Microsoft is championing is important to anyone who cares about language and the almost unfettered effort of large corporations to trademark ordinary terms.
Large corporations, Microsoft seems to say, should be prevented from taking out ordinary language as their own property, then strong-arming others into paying to use them, or to use the language we inherited from our ancestors only in the context some marketing dweeb prefers.
It has nothing to do with Microsoft's own efforts to launch a series of retail outlets that not only compete with Apple Stores, but are located directly across the hall from them as often as possible.
Of course, in considering the generosity, civic-mindedness and altruism inherent in Microsoft's effort, we should set aside any suspicions aroused by the following list of words that are trademarked by Microsoft despite the shallow interpretation of them as words just as generic and publicly owned as the phrase "Apple store:"