Legal Matters

Scientists must use each other's ideas and inventions if progress is to be made. However, using something that belongs to someone else brings us into the realm of legal, as well as ethical, issues. The rule is simple - if a work is not yours, find out whose it is and get permission before you use it. The application of the rule is somewhat more complex. Below are some handy things to know. For more detail, Strong (1999) is a useful reference, but when you have really important questions about such things as trade names, copyrights, and patents, consult a lawyer.

Trade names

A manufactured item such as a pharmaceutical product sometimes has as many as three different types of names. One is its systemic chemical name, which is often complex. Another is a shorter, nonproprietary "generic" name. A third is a trade name, also called a proprietary name. This is the name a manufacturer or vendor gives to its product; usually such names are registered as trademarks.

If one manufacturer's product behaves significantly differently from other similar products, readers may need to know which one you used in order to duplicate your experimental results. In such a case, the trade name should be given somewhere (often in parentheses or in a reference or footnote rather than directly in the text).

Otherwise, scientific writing generally avoids trade names. In particular, brand or trademark names should never be used in titles or summaries. One reason is that their use makes it appear as though one is advertising products. Another is that, while generic and systemic names generally stay the same, trade names often differ greatly from one part of the world to another. Furthermore, official trade names can be awkward to use, because many consist of a long string of words,

Table 8.1. Trade names that companies are working to keep from coming into general use

Trade name Vaseline®

SCOTCH Magic Tape SPAM® luncheon meat XEROX® copier VELCRO® brand fasteners BOTOX® Purified Neurotoxin Complex SPACKLE®

Generic name petroleum jelly or petrolatum transparent tape canned luncheon meat photocopier hook and loop fasteners botulinum toxin surfacing compound some of which may appear in all capital letters. (For example, the full name for those widely known sticky tapes is BAND AID® Brand Adhesive Bandages.)

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