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The Timex phrase you mentioned wouldn't be copyrighted (can't copyright a short phrase). I don't know for sure if it's Trademarked or not, but it's very very likely.

Would you be able to use it for a completely different purpose? Maybe (but don't bet on it). Trademarks are generally in connection with a specific line of business (e.g. Time Magazine have a trademark on its use in that context, but they couldn't stop a public transport company using the same name (though someone else probably has a mark that could)), but most large corporations aren't in just one line of business.

Virgin, for example, are in phones, planes, music... and probably several other things. They're currently sueing a clothing company for use of the word "Virgin" in their business name.

To go back to your Timex example... I doubt you could ever use it, because if the line was actually relevant it would be an infringement. If it's not an infringement, it's nonsenically irrelevant. This is part of the problem using anything that falls under a TM. If it's useful to you, they would consider it useful to them - which means they'll sue.

The less generic a mark, the more lattitude there is to use it in another context. For example, Time is a standard English noun in extremely common usage - so there's only certain contexts it can be protected against. Viagra on the other hand is a made up word, so they have more power to restrict its use.

However, unlike a copyright a trademark has to be actively enforced by its owner if they want to keep hold of it. If it falls into common usage it can be declared a "common word" by the courts, which means the owner will no longer have exclusive rights.

Interestingly I was going to say the two most common examples are Kleenex and Xerox, but upon looking them up I find they are still Trademarked - though in both cases they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth. Examples would be aspirin and bikini - both were once exclusive trademarks, now they are both generic words for the product they represent.

To my mind Trademark law is even more complicated than Copyright law, and not something to be messed with by non-lawyers.
 
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