The Score on Trademarks and Copyrights [Last Modified on 2006.12.03]
The current laws regarding trademarks and copyrights are far too favorable to corporations that obtain trademark or copyright rights long after the original creator of a brand or product is out of the picture. The ultimate goal of these laws should be to protect the actual creator for a reasonable period of time, not to lock in exclusive rights for a corporation for a period of time approaching eternity.
Copyrights must expire much more quickly than they currently do. The lifetime of the original creator is a sufficient period of time to retain a copyright; perhaps the creator's heirs, if there are any, may extend this copyright by up to 25 years. If a copyright is initially registered by a corporation, then that corporation may retain the copyright for the "lifetime" of the corporation as a solvent entity.
Common phrases or words should not be allowed to be trademarked. An obvious example is "I'm lovin' it," trademarked by McDonald's. McDonald's should have no legal claim to what is a well-used and common phrase. The very idea that they have trademarked the phrase (in various languages, no less!) is ludicrous. When a trademark falls into the vernacular, the owner loses that trademark. Hence, no entity can trademark anything that is already in the vernacular, since the trademark would be null and void the instant it was registered. (Although we do like McDonald's in general, we can't support this silly trademark they have registered.) There are plenty of examples of lost trademarks: for instance, both escalator and aspirin were originally trademarked brand names. In some regional dialects, "coke" is in the vernacular, meaning any carbonated soft drink. Some companies are dangerously close to losing their trademarked names; examples include Xerox, Kleenex (not quite as precarious), and Q-Tip. Losing a trademark is a natural process in a society with a living, changing language.