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One thing I've consistently noticed in TV commercials and other marketing materials for drugs is that the trade name for a drug, especially a prescription drug, is almost always written in all caps within text (e.g. NEXIUM):

Important Safety Information About NEXIUM

  • Symptom relief does not rule out the presence of other serious conditions. Talk with your doctor
  • Talk to your doctor about serious side effects, including:
    • Kidney problems (acute interstitial nephritis) may happen at any time during treatment with NEXIUM. Call your doctor if you have a decrease in the amount that you urinate or if you have blood in your urine
    • NEXIUM may increase your risk of getting severe diarrhea. Call your doctor right away if you have watery stool, stomach pain and fever that does not go away
    • Bone fractures if you take multiple daily doses of NEXIUM for a year or longer
    • Some people who take PPIs, including NEXIUM, develop certain types of lupus or have worsening of the lupus they already have. Call your doctor right away if you have joint pain or rash on your cheeks or arms that gets worse in the sun
    • Low vitamin B12 if you have been on NEXIUM for a long time (more than 3 years)
    • Low magnesium levels if you take NEXIUM (for 3 months or more)
    • Stomach growths (fundic gland polyps), especially if you take PPIs for more than 1 year
  • Tell your doctor about all of the medicines you take, prescription and nonprescription drugs, including clopidogrel, vitamins and herbal supplements. NEXIUM may affect how other medicines work and other medicines may affect how NEXIUM works
  • Do not take NEXIUM if you are allergic to esomeprazole magnesium or any of the ingredients in NEXIUM or are allergic to any other PPI
  • The most common side effects with NEXIUM may include headache, diarrhea, nausea, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, dry mouth and drowsiness
  • In adults 18 and older, the most common side effects with NEXIUM may include headache, diarrhea, nausea, gas, abdominal pain, constipation, and dry mouth
  • In children 1 to 17 years of age, the most common side effects with NEXIUM may include headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, and drowsiness

However, the wordmark and logo write the trade name with only the first letter capitalized:

Nexium logo

Why is this done? Does this reduce the risk of genericization? Is there any other legal advantage to doing this?

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It is capitalized because the word NEXIUM has a conspicuous definition. In other words, they're using it in the specific way they have defined it to mean. This is to differentiate it from any other meaning it may have in some other context. Obviously with NEXIUM, it's a word they just made up and it's very unlikely that it could ever be confused with anything other than their particular drug.

But what if the drug were called PRAXIA? The word praxia might be confused with the medical term. It's also the name of a city in Romania (I just learned that while looking that word up). But PRAXIA in all caps refers specifically to their drug, and there can be no ambiguity between that and other uses of the term.

This is especially important for drugs, since they are legally required to disclose the side effects in their advertising, and you wouldn't want someone potentially confusing the name of the drug with the condition it treats.

You see this in contracts as well. When a contract provision is written in ALL CAPS, it is done to conspicuously call attention to the text, either because it is redefining an established legal term or is modifying rights you may have under the law (e.g. LIMITED WARRANTY, SEVERABILITY, BINDING ARBITRATION, etc.)

There is no established rule for this, by the way. It's mostly a matter of style. Some laws require conspicuous disclosure of certain provisions in contracts, so ALL CAPS has traditionally been used to meet that requirement.

NOTE: The term "Nexium" (not in caps) is simply the registered trademark for the drug. It simply protects their intellectual property (i.e. the name), and isn't intended to describe or define anything in a legal way.


Fun fact: Subway got sued for making "Footlong" sandwiches that were not actually 12 inches in length. They tried to argue that "Footlong" was a trademark and not intended to convey the length of their sandwiches. They settled the lawsuit, because really, that's a jackass move right there. I wonder, though... If they'd called it a FOOTLONG, would that have made a difference? ;-)

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    This sounds like a good answer. After all, typically defined terms have their first letter capitalized, so when the defined term uses a name it seems plausible that the whole term should be capitalized to distinguish it from the proper noun. But I'd love to see some reference supporting this explanation or convention. – feetwet Jul 1 '16 at 1:37
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No, this does not even appear to be a ubiquitous practice. It certainly does not reduce the risk of generalization - its probably a styling rule someone has made somewhere. Indeed if you search Google, you will find lots and lots of examples where this is not the case. (For example, look at the logo for Cialis, Plavix - the first 2 logos I could find with lower case, out of 4 I looked at in total)

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    I don't understand your example supporting your point? "Cialis" is not capitalized in the logo graphic, but is uniformly rendered as CIALIS in text copy on it's own webpage m.cialis.com – user662852 Jun 26 '16 at 16:44
  • Plavix, yes, but not Cialis. Clopidogrel (Plavix) is no longer proprietary, so information is harder to find about the name-brand variant. However, nearly every TV commercial advertising some sort of prescription drug has the trade name in all caps, so I can't quite agree here. (The only major exceptions I've seen is if the trade name has an unusual intended capitalization, such as CamelCase (e.g. ProAir for albuterol/salbutamol). – bwDraco Jun 26 '16 at 17:49
  • Ubiquitous practice? So basically you're saying that 99.9% of all terms of services, privacy policies and other legal documents are all wrong. You seriously need to make argument and cite some sources if you want to get anywhere, evaluate this answer is so wrong I don't even know where to start. – Zizouz212 Jun 29 '16 at 14:52
  • @Zizoyz211 - rather then dogging me just to criticise my posts without adding value, how about you put in your own rebuttals. BTW I have researched capitalization and its meaning on interpretation (albeit with respect of persons names) EXTENSIVELY - if you can evidence that courts put any emphasis on all caps please shaw me! – davidgo Jun 29 '16 at 19:17

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