They used to be fixtures of office desks and kitchen counters many years ago, attractive nuisances to young kids and absolute necessities for parents preparing the annual Christmas card to go out. With its brilliantly simple compact design allowing for the storage and easy organization of virtually thousands of telephone numbers and addresses, the Rolodex® open rotary card file made many a desk jockey content. But like many other relics of the past that simply perform a task that could easily be handled by a computer, Rolodex filing systems are becoming harder to find. Don’t tell that to the trademark lawyers for Sanford, the company that owns the Rolodex trademark.

Yes, you read that right. Rolodex is a trademark. It has been since 1940, the first year that Arnold Neustadter, the original inventor with an obsession for details and organization, sold the product. Besides being registered for a “paper dispensing device for desks” (“paper” meaning small cards that are dispensed as blanks sheets for information to be recorded on), Rolodex® is now a trademark for all sorts of workplace and contact management products. A trademark portfolio for a household name with only 8 trademarks may not seem like much but hey, its quality not quantity. 

Snapchat, still reeling from a hacker attack in 2013 where the contact information for 4.6 millions users was published, recently lost a bid to prevent somebody else from using a domain name that contained the word “Snapchat” (which happens to be a trademark of Snapchat, naturally). The domain name, www.snapchatcheck.com, allows Snapchat users to determine whether their information was compromised in the 2013 hack. What gives? How can a third-party simply rip-off the name of a major company and build a website off a stolen identity? Does the fact that the name is used in the context of a domain name matter?

These are all issues that this post will attempt to tackle (and tie together with a nice pretty bow). But first, let’s take a little stroll down Internet 101 lane.

The Internet has become an invaluable tool that many lean on to share information, engage with others, and improve their daily lives. Pulsating data streams flowing out of I.P. addresses build resource and support networks, helping people literally improve their lives. These aren’t platitudes, trust me. I think we can all speak from experience on this one and arrive at the same conclusion: in a World where people actively seek explanations and validation, the worldwide web is our lifeblood. And how do we navigate this lifeblood and determine, from the great cacophony of noise, what is legitimate and what isn’t? Links, searches, “likes”, content shares (which are forms of linking), and hash tags; all are filtered and validated a la our own B.S. indicators which have been so finely sharpened by our years of experience navigating the Internet.

Apple is well-known for its practice of creating tremendous buzz before its products even launch. The goal for doing this, of course, is to drive foot traffic into stores and digital traffic to apple.com where, hopefully, more than a few consumers will find themselves purchasing the gadget. Product webcasts featuring a sharply dressed spokesman in front of a screen spinning crisp images of the new product and crisp animations usually involving someones hand or fingers (what other part of the body so ably demonstrates the features of a phone or tablet?) announce this year's must-have product with great fanfare. Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference has similarly become a widely-followed tech-carpet gala where devoted Apple fans can gain an insight into the latest product and software developments from Apple.

Devotees have their own mediums and methods for following Apple's latest technology conquering, from blogs to underground fanatic websites (I follow a few of them myself; some of these websites seem to be almost an extension of Apple's P.R. department). A favorite topic in recent years has been the discussion of potential product names for new Apple products. In 2007, there was a particularly spirited debate over whether Apple could use the trademark iPhone given Cisco's previous ownership of the mark "iPhone" for a cordless phone that could make calls over the internet. Apple eventually won that battle by making Cisco go quietly (well, sort of).