Questions & Answers About Trademarks

1. Is SignWriting Free To Use? Yes!!

2. Do People Pay Royalties For Using SignWriting?
No. There is not one person who works with SignWriting, including the inventor Valerie Sutton, who has ever received one penny in royalties for the invention of SignWriting.

3. What Is A Copyright?
The symbol for copyright is a "c with a circle around it". Copyrights are connected with publications. When you see the copyright symbol on a publication, it means that you cannot make copies of the publication without the author's or publisher's permission.

4. Is The "R With A Circle Around It" A Copyright Symbol?
No. That is not a copyright symbol. It is a trademark symbol.

5. What Is A Trademark?
Trademarks are connected with "names". They are "brand names" for products that are "registered" with the Patent and Trademark Office in Washington DC. When you see the trademark symbol next to a name, it means that the "name" is legally connected with a specific product, developed by a specific group. The group went to the trouble and expense to officially register their "brand name", so that no one else could use that name for a similar product. This is good for society, because consumers then know, by the name alone, what they are buying and who manufactured it. Similar products manufacured by other groups must be given a totally different name, which they in turn can register as a trademark if they wish.

6. Is The Name "SignWriting" Trademarked?
Yes. "SignWriting" is a registered trademark of the Center For Sutton Movement Writing, the non-profit organization which sponsors the Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting (the DAC).

The trademark "SignWriting" is always written with a capital "S" and a capital "W". It is the "brand name" for the signed language notation system invented by Valerie Sutton, and further developed by the DAC. When you write it with capital letters, it is equivalent to saying "Sutton".

7. Does That Mean That SignWriting Is "Owned" by Sutton? more than Dr. Stokoe "owns" the Stokoe system. Writing systems cannot be "owned" by anyone. No one would write with them, if they were restricted!

8. Are There Other Trademarks In Connection With "Sutton"?
Yes. The Center For Sutton Movement Writing has registered five trademarks:

"SignWriting" in connection with signed language notation
"SignWriter", in connection with "SignWriter Newsletter"
"SignWriter", in connection with "SignWriter Computer Program"
"SignBank" in connection with "SignBank Computer Program"
"DanceWriting" in connection with dance notation

9. What Does The "TM" Symbol Mean?
Registered Trademarks use an "R with a circle around it". Non-Registered Trademarks use "TM". A Registered Trademark has been filed and accepted as an official trademark by the Trademark & Patent Office in Washington DC. In other words, the government knows about it. A Non-Registered Trademark has not been filed for registration yet, or registration is pending. Groups must use the "TM" symbol until it is registered.

10. What Is A Patent?
A patent is different than a copyright or trademark. It protects a device and how it is designed. Patents protect physical things, not language or thoughts. Writing systems are therefore not patented.



Date: Fri, 31 Aug 2001
Sender: SignWriting List <SW-L@ADMIN.HUMBERC.ON.CA>
From: Valerie Sutton <Sutton@SIGNWRITING.ORG>
Subject: A question about copyrights...


SignWriting List
August 31, 2001

Dear SW List:
I just received this question from a SignWriting List member:

>I'm curious to know, what kind of legalisation you have on SW, I
>mean ... I know in some cases you need to purchase the SignWriter, but sometimes you can have it straight and free via Internet. Also, the literature and other stuff similar to that can be purchased, using the SW-system free for every one or not? What I mean is, is the whole writing system secured somehow ( does it have some kind of patent or something) or is it just the normal copyright - laws that are applied to all the SW-material...? I'm just wondering, if there's any rules I should be aware of, while considering using it?


Thanks for the question. It is frequently asked! ;-)

SignWriting is free for you to use. You can write by hand or type by computer using the SignWriting symbols and there are NO royalty fees (or any kind of restrictions). I want you to use it...that is the point!

The SignWriting system and trademarks are protected under general copyright and trademark laws. You are free to publish using SignWriting. When you publish, follow the normal copyright and trademark procedure that all publishers credit to the invention and trademarks on the copyright page of your publication. If you choose to publish, I can send you the copyright statement for you to paste on the copyright page.

So you have no fear...go right ahead and use it, as everyone else does!

In regards to buying materials or downloading them for free on the web...

Anything I place on the web for download is there for you to use
freely. So go right ahead and use everything placed on the web....

Some people want to purchase printed copies and CDs. It costs money for me to print them, so I have to charge them money. There is also postage involved. But you are not required to purchase anything.

There are some people who do not know computers well, and downloading seems hard to purchasing the program makes sense to them.

To see the Catalog List of available materials in SignWriting, go to:

SignWriting Catalog

I hope this answer helps!

Val ;-)


Valerie Sutton


SignWriting List Archives:


Please feel free to write if you have questions.

Valerie Sutton


Deaf Action Committee for SignWriting
Center For Sutton Movement Writing
an educational nonprofit organization
P.O. Box 517, La Jolla, CA, 92038-0517, USA

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