Xerox is a known stickler when it comes to its corporate trademark, but that’s not new.
In light of longtime book critic Michiko Kakutani stepping down from her role Thursday, a reporter for The New York Times tweeted out an amazingly anachronistic letter to the editor from an upset Xerox employee.
The typewriter-written letter, dated August 2, 1979, is directed to a mis-gendered “Mr. Michiko Kakutani” in response to an article in which Xerox’s name is used as a verb.
“There is no adjective ‘xeroxed’. Rather, one should use copied, photocopied or duplicated,” Maggie Lovaas, a field market analyst, wrote on official Xerox stationary. “If in the future you wish to use the name Xerox, it should be used with a capital ‘X’ and no ‘ed’.”
The article in question, titled “Pat Carroll Pat Carroll Pat Carroll,” is a profile on the midcentury actress Pat Carroll. The author, Ms. Kakutani, verbifies the company’s name while detailing the decor in Carroll’s house.
“Miss Carroll’s reconverted farmhouse has become something of a Steinian archive; it is filled with books by Stein and about Stein, as well as xeroxed Ph.D. theses and obscure literary journals devoted to that most famous of salon‐keepers,” reads the piece.
(Delightfully, The New York Times ‘xeroxed’ the print issue from that day, and the original article can be found live on its website.)
In the ’70s, Xerox was a heavyweight in the photocopying game, stemming from its 1959 release of the first commercial machine, the Xerox 914.
But it’s only caused headaches for those in charge of the corporation’s trademark, which has since slipped into everyday use — no doubt thanks to the subtle acceptance of such verbiage by The New York Times’ (now-defunct) copy desk.
While today the un-capitalised “xerox” is listed as a verb by Merriam-Webster, Xerox the corporation retains its policy, and continues to send letters of complaint.
“Xerox Corporation has never accepted the verbiage ‘xeroxing.’ Xerox continues to mount an aggressive campaign to protect Xerox as a copyrighted, trademark and not a generic verb,” a spokesperson told Business Insider. “We place advertising to support this message and send letters when appropriate.”
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