Imagine that words and phrases in the English language could be bought. A company could purchase words and become the only entity who could ever use them.
It would fill our language with landmines, forcing writers to navigate through a whole new kind of stylebook. If we used a forbidden word, we could be sued by the word’s owner. One day our use of words like “iced tea” or “notebook” might be completely fine; the next day, if we tried to use that turn of phrase, we could get our websites shut down.
Sounds like crazy science fiction, doesn’t it?
The US Trademark Office is allowing companies to trademark phrases in common and widespread use, such as the term “fire cider,” just because a company wants to have exclusive rights to using a phrase for a product.