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Trademarks, copyrights, and patents are among the most contentious pieces of law anywhere, and it's very easy to make enemies by swinging your constitutional protections the wrong way.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) is no stranger to these issues; heck, the company secured a trademark for its own fruity name way back in 1977. It has been on the receiving end of disputes, such as when Cisco Systems (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) registered the iPhone name first. These days, Apple keeps busy in the courtroom by filing patent infringement suits against Motorola (NYSE: MOT  ) and HTC and then defending against the inevitable countersuits. And just to be different, the company has secured a service mark for the phrase "There's an app for that."

The next time Verizon wants to poke fun at AT&T and its 3G coverage, it may want to stay away from clever turns of phrase like "There's a map for that." Otherwise, Apple's lawyers might come knocking with a subpoena. We Fools are less likely to run into legal trouble for twisting those words thanks to Fair Use laws, but the knowledge of this specialized trademark now hangs over my head. Never mind that "There's an app for that" jumped the shark long ago -- lawyers have itchy trigger fingers sometimes. With that in mind, here's a couple of marketing messages that probably won't fly anymore:

  • Starbucks Frappucinos: "Droopy? There's a frap for that."
  • Sealy mattresses: "Tired? There's a nap for that."
  • Death Row Records: "Angry? There's a rap for that."
  • Subway: "Hungry? There's a wrap for that."
  • Orkin: "Mice? There's a trap for that."

And so it goes -- acres of creativity laid to waste in a single filing. In Apple's defense, the application was filed last December while the phrase still sounded a little bit fresh. As it stands, I don't think this trademark matters much anymore.

Did I miss your favorite "There's an app" joke? Share the mirth in the comments below.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund holds no position in any of the companies discussed here. Apple and Starbucks are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. The Fool has written calls (Bull Call Spread) on Cisco Systems. The Fool owns shares of Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. True to its name, The Motley Fool is made up of a motley assortment of writers and analysts, each with a unique perspective; sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but we all believe in the power of learning from each other through our Foolish community. You can check out Anders' holdings and a concise bio if you like, and The Motley Fool is investors writing for investors.


Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (2)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On October 13, 2010, at 5:51 PM, nicknbarney wrote:

    more later maybe

  • Report this Comment On October 14, 2010, at 10:01 AM, dundundundun wrote:

    InBev - Thirsty? There's a tap for that

  • Report this Comment On October 16, 2010, at 11:21 PM, HamKap wrote:

    These are easy!

    FASHION: Jeans? There's a Gap for that

    Gentlemen clubs? There's a lap for that

    AUNT JEMIMA: Maple Syrup? There's a sap for that

    MAJOR LEAGUE APPAREL: There's a cap for that

    ANHEUSER-BUSCH: Beer? There's a tap for that

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Anders Bylund
TMFZahrim

Anders Bylund is a Foolish Technology and Entertainment Specialist. Where the two markets intersect, you'll find his wheelhouse. He has been an official Fool since 2006 but a jester all his life.

Hypoallergenic. Contains six flavors not found in nature. Believes in coyotes and time as an abstract.

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