Gregg and copyright


Is anyone here familiar with the copyright and possibly the trademark status of Gregg shorthand? I know that McGraw Hill used to have a whole Gregg division to manage all Gregg-related manuals. How free are we today to:

– publicly talk about the Gregg method and describe its rules and principles at length (disclosure of information supposedly only available to you if you buy the books?), usually by paraphrasing the contents of the manuals,

– use Gregg outlines or their likeness to produce our own shorthand-written material?

For example, the angelfishy site (which I love): couldn’t McGraw Hill come and say hey, we never allowed you to use the name Gregg because its a proprietary name with a trademark on it (no idea if it’s the case or not! does anyone know?), and stop describing the method because you are plagiarizing our books that are still protected by valid copyrights, and in fact, stop using Gregg outlines on a public website because the system was intended for private use within companies only.

Anyone have a clear idea of where we stand on this matter?



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  1. There's a distinction between patent which is a limitation of use of the invention itself, a trademark which refers to a brand name/logo used to distinguish goods and services from others, and a copyright which refers to protecting the authorship of original works.

    A U.S. utility patent is generally granted for 20 years from the date the patent application is filed — this means that no one else can alter how an invention is used or works for that period of time; however, periodic fees are required to maintain the enforceability of the patent. A design patent is generally granted protection for 14 years measured from the date the design patent is granted; hence, no one can duplicate or mimic the appearance of the original invention for 20 years.

    A U.S. trademark generally lasts as long as the trademark is used in commerce and defended against infringement.

    Lastly, copyright protection of works by an author is for a limited term. For works created after January 1, 1978, copyrights last for 70 years after the death of the author. For works "made for hire" (covering the usual type of work owned by a small business), the copyright lasts for a term of 95 years from the year of its first publication or a term of 120 years from the year of its creation, whichever expires first.

    In those two cases that you mention, I believe they would be referring to the use of an invention (here Gregg Shorthand), which although it was probably patented (if so, a design patent, and Dr. Gregg would have needed to file a patent application), the exclusive patent should have expired long ago, if it was ever filed! I don't believe the name Gregg Shorthand was ever trademarked (they would've needed to file paperwork and kept paying fees to maintain the mark) — that doesn't mean that anyone can "buy" the name or register it as its own since it's common knowledge that the name has been used forever. Lastly, copyright would not apply in those cases because the work would be new, in other words, you are not copying material from anybody else, so it's all good as long as you don't duplicate books still under copyright for mass consumption. That's my understanding, especially if the book's copyright was renewed.

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