Thou shalt not take names in vain

This is certainly too serious a subject for a Friday night in the middle of August, but that's a good time for old ideas to be written down. And indeed this has been on my mind for so long, at least since I realized that common nouns such as english timeword, windows, apple, caterpillar, shell, bull, french orange, printemps, champion, géant, carrefour, german kinder, and many more, had been "borrowed" from the language commons to become brands. This is in principle forbidden by various trademark legislations, but there are subtle workarounds. I have always considered such practices as unacceptable enclosures in the knowledge commons. They might look anecdotic, leading to rather silly cases, but some borderline practices from major Web actors show that this affair is more important that it could seem at first sight.
One could argue that the market gives back words to the commons, lists of generic or genericized trademarks are easy to find, in a variety of languages. But curiously enough,  the other way round, systematic lists of common nouns used as trademarks I could not find either in Wikipedia or anywhere else. Note sure if they could get any longer than the former, in any case the lists I proposed to start on Wikipedia were proposed for deletion a few minutes after creation by zealous wardens of the Wikipedia Holy Rules, for lack of notability of the subject. Forget about it, I'm now trying to figure how to query DBpedia to get such a list, but the distinction between a proper name and a common noun is no more explicit in DBpedia descriptions and ontology than it is in Wikipedia.
Anyway, this is not necessarily the most important aspect of the way information technologies can impact, misuse and abuse our language commons at large. There is quite a lot of rules or guidelines one could imagine for that matter, some already explicited by laws even if tricky to enforce, some yet to be specified, not to mention being enforced. There is something deeply anchored in our culture about the fair use of names, coming certainly from the way they are rooted in our religions, hence I have only a slight compunction to take inspiration below from one of the most holy and ancient set of rules. Apologies to believers who might read the following as blasphemy uttered by an old agnostic, and disclaimer to everyone else : those were not cast in stone by any god on any mountain. But if the first and main item in this list seems clearly inspired by the Third Commandment, well, yes it is, and not only in form. The underlying claim is that every word, every name, carries along with it enough history and legacy to be honoured. Those who don't care that much about such religious considerations can read this as pragmatic deontological guidelines for a fair, efficient and sustainable use of names in our information systems at large, and on the Web in particular.

Here goes, ten items of course to stick to the original format. 
  1. Thou shalt not take names in vain
  2. Honour the many meanings of a name, for they belong to the Commons
  3. Acknowledge linguistic and semantic diversity, polysemy and synonymy
  4. Do not steal names from the Commons to be your proper names
  5. Do not sell and buy names, for they belong to the Commons
  6. Do not hide yourself or your products under false names
  7. Do not use names against their common meaning 
  8. Do not enforce your own meanings upon others
  9. Expose your meanings to the Commons, for they will be welcome
  10. Share your own names with the Commons, for they will thrive forever
I won't dwelve today in the details of each of those, some might look quite cryptic and need to be expanded in further posts. Just a remark on the first (and most important) one. The "take in vain" used by the King James version of the Bible has been replaced in more recent translations by "misuse". I prefer the former, which conveys the notion that whenever you use the name, it's not for nothing or something without importance and consequence. When you use a name, you should have well thought about its meaning. In French you would translate at best "Tu ne prendras pas les noms à la légère."