Recently, a law firm representing Oracle demanded that Apple take down an app with the word "JavaScript" in its name from Apple's App store, as Oracle owns the trademark for the word "JavaScript". Their claim was that "People seeing this app would probably think it was developed or licensed by Oracle"

According to Wikipedia's article on trademarks, section "Maintaining rights":

Trademarks rights must be maintained through actual lawful use of the trademark. These rights will cease if a mark is not actively used for a period of time, normally 5 years in most jurisdictions

Exactly what does "actual lawful use of the trademark" mean, and how much is necessary?

If I ask 1000 JavaScript developers (not random people, who would just say "Ja-what?") what company they associate with JavaScript, I doubt even one percent would say Oracle. Compare this to asking 1000 random people what company they associate with Windows, where I guess a very large percentage would say "Microsoft". Microsoft has clearly maintained their trademark, while Oracle has strongly neglected theirs.

Oracle acquired the trademark to in 2010, when they bought Sun Microsystems. As far as I know, they have not been enforcing that trademark at all before now, approximately 8 years later, and the word "JavaScript" is very widely used, and in no practical way linked to Oracle. I strongly doubt anyone will actually think "This app is probably developed or licensed by Oracle" when seeing something with "JavaScript" in its name.

Would the law firm's claims hold up in court?

A similar example from reality, not part of the question

In Norway, the snack company Maarud had the trademark for the word "Potetgull", which was supposed to be the norwegian word for "potato chips". The word eventually over the years got that exact meaning, with people no longer associating it with Maarud, but potato chips in general. When a rivaling company, KiMs, released potato chips with the name "Potetgull". Maarud sued KiMs and lost because the word had fallen into everyday language

  • 1
    Something of a counter point to your last example: in the US, everyone knows what a band-aid is. Anything that resembles a band-aid is called a band-aid by normal people. The term "band-aid" is also used in slang phrases for fixing things. Johnson & Johnson owns the trademark on Band-Aid. Any other company that sells essentially the same thing cannot call them that; they use "adhesive medical strips" or something in that vein. A company can retain ownership if they take efforts to prevent commercial appropriation and genericization (J&J uses the term "Band-Aid brand" for this purpose). Apr 20, 2018 at 3:54

1 Answer 1


Why do you think Oracle have not been protecting their trade mark?

Using a trade mark to describe the product (“Written in JavaScript”, “Seeking JavaScript developer”) is not an infringement and the trade mark owner is under no obligation to, indeed, cannot stop this.

Where they are required to defend their trade mark is when it is being used in such a way that there is the risk of confusion that the goods or services could be confused with the trade mark owner’s goods or services. Further, they are not required to defend all breaches, only enough to show that they are actively doing so.

Also it is not important that the trade mark be associated with the trade mark’s owner. Do you know who owns the trade mark “Ben & Jerry’s”?

  • 2
    I have no idea who has the trademark for "Ben & Jerry's". I thought it was the company name. At least I was very certain it was trademarked. I really didn't know "JavaScript" was trademarked until yesterday
    – Suppen
    Apr 20, 2018 at 7:31
  • @Suppen Ben and Jerry’s is a trade mark of Unilever
    – Dale M
    Apr 20, 2018 at 7:55
  • "Where they are required to defend their trade mark is when it is being used in such a way that there is the risk of confusion (...)" - I think the point is that the described app is by no means an extraordinary occurrence of the term JavaScript. Yes, maybe you can remove occurrences in phrases like "Written in JavaScript" and "Seeking JavaScript developer" (both indicate clearly that "JavaScript" is the thing being used, not the originator of the artifact). However, given the prevalence of JavaScript, there are zillions of products and services that have "JavaScript" in their ... Jul 30, 2023 at 11:20
  • ... name, in such a way that you might well argue "this sounds like something provided by the company behind the JavaScript trademark". Google "JavaScript Editor" to know what I mean. Jul 30, 2023 at 11:21

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .