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Translating trademarked product names
Thread poster: James McVay

James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:03
Russian to English
+ ...
Apr 17, 2008

If this topic has been discussed before, a search didn't find it.

I am currently translating a Russian book for publication in the U.S. in which the author uses several trademarked product names. I'm unsure how best to handle them. Should I mark each occurrence with the TM symbol even though the author hasn't done so?

[Edited at 2008-04-17 14:46]


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xxxPeter Manda
Local time: 06:03
German to English
+ ...
being the client's translation attorney Apr 17, 2008

Boy, being the client's attorney when translating is a really difficult question.

After all, we are hired only to straight translate.

In product manuals and job descriptions for employees, however, I always make sure that the language that I am using does not inadvertently create liability in the culture that I am translating into. I do this not only as a matter of courtesy, but because if the translation ever becomes an issue in court, then I know from the start that I have translated at least most of the language appropriately (and if it should happen, then I should never have to be in that position in any case).

In the case of inserting legal disclaimers where the author didn't intend them, such as inserting (R) or (T) symbols for registered and/or trademarked names, goods, or products, I believe that the author's intent must be followed. That is, I would chose against the extra insertion. Here my duty would be sufficiently carried, to notify the author (if at all) of the variance or discrepancy with my notions of the law.

After all, as a translator, I'm not also hired as an attorney. If I were hired as a translator AND an attorney, my per word rate would naturally adjust. Why? Because by providing legal advice or making changes because of my understanding of the law, I am exposing myself (maybe rightfully) to claims for malpractice, unrequested legal advice, etc.

In this light, there have been contracts where I have seen significant defects from a legal perspective but have not pointed them out, because of this very reason. Though as I am typing this, I think I am realizing it may not be a bad idea to advise the client of these discrepancies (though who ever believes a translator for his legal advice?).

I hope this helps ...


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Paul Merriam  Identity Verified
Local time: 06:03
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
Translate what's there Apr 17, 2008

I can see at least two reasons for not putting in the TM symbol.

a. The author may be unaware that a TM applies.
b. The TM may have started a "generalization" process and the author may not be referring to the trademarked product. (For example, "Xerox", though a trademark, is often used to mean any copier.)

I am not a lawyer and, as Mr. Manda points out, legal advice is usually not included in translation fees. I usually say something along the lines of "I am not an attorney and this should not be construed as legal advice. The bar association can help you locate an attorney if you consider it necessary. If you should decide to consult an attorney, here are some issues you may wish to discuss: ..."


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Ken Cox  Identity Verified
Local time: 12:03
German to English
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The customary practice nowadays... Apr 17, 2008

... in books and (probably) magazines is to not mark trademarked terms (and certainly not every instance), but instead to put a statement on the copyright page such as 'registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners' (which strikes me as tautological, but it's standard wording), and (possibly) to list some of the biggies and (almost certainly) the trademarks (if any) belonging to the author or publisher.

For press releases, AFAIK trademarks are usually marked in tne text, but often only on the first occurrence.

I'd suggest you consult whatever style manual you consider appropriate and raise the issue with the athor.

[Edited at 2008-04-17 23:19]


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Steven Capsuto  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:03
Spanish to English
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It also depends what type of book it is. Apr 17, 2008

I don't think I've ever seen the (TM) or (R) symbols in a novel, but have often seen them in non-fiction works, and most particularly in how-to books and other manuals.

But as I see it, adding these symbols is not your job. Just translate what you were sent. Any decent-sized publishing house has lawyers who make sure that texts meet legal requirements in the country of publication.


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James McVay  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 06:03
Russian to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks for the comments Apr 18, 2008

Good comments from everybody. Thanks. Steven, your remark about lawyers at publishing houses is on the money, I think. Some years back, a friend of mine wrote a fictionalized biography about Eddie Rickenbacker. The publisher's lawyer got worried, because a regular autobiography had already been published, and naturally there was a lot of similarity between the two books. My friend said his book was a parody, and that satisfied the lawyer.

I'm not going to worry about trademarks.


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