Here Is Adobe's Attempt to Stop People From Using the Term "Photoshop" All Willy-Nilly

Illustration for article titled Here Is Adobes Attempt to Stop People From Using the Term Photoshop All Willy-Nilly

Poor Adobe. Along with everyone pre-eulogizing Flash, the only other property of theirs you can name—Photoshop—is in danger. Intellectual property danger.

What Adobe’s been worried about for years is “genericization,” which is when the brand name becomes a synonym for a product. Which is how the Bayer-trademarked “aspirin” took over for the real name for the drug, “acetylsalicylic acid.” In Adobe’s case, they would prefer it if people stopped saying that any altered image was changed via Photoshop.

You may have seen this excerpt from what Adobe calls “basic rules for proper trademark use” floating around the Internet:

Illustration for article titled Here Is Adobes Attempt to Stop People From Using the Term Photoshop All Willy-Nilly

To be slightly fair, at least Adobe is only targeting use on “packaging, promotional, and advertising materials” on this page. On the other hand, the fact that they call those examples “basic rules for proper trademark use” is a bit more ominous.

It’s not useful. No one has ever talked like that. That’s just not how language works. If you looked at a badly manipulated viral image and said, “That looks like it was enhanced using Adobe® Photoshop® software” instead of “That looks photoshopped,” people would look at you weirdly. Or ask if you worked at Adobe and then look at you weirdly

Not only does policing language not work, it has the whiff of the evil about it. And it’s self-defeating: would you be persuaded by promotional materials written like this?

The best bet is to think of it like a compliment: long after Adobe has given up the ghost and everyone is using free open-sourced software to perpetuate the hoax that Mars and the Moon are the same size, people will still say it’s been photoshopped.


Photo Credit: AP Images

Contact the author at


Share This Story

Get our newsletter



Those are basic rules for proper trademark use. Moreover, they are standard rules. They can’t really stop the verbal language genericization — particularly in the absence of a credible competitor — any more than Coke, Kleenex, or Xerox could. But they can legally police more formal writing.

Also, I can definitely name several other Adobe products. Often associated with various curses. :p (Though by no means anywhere near as bad as Microsoft Word products [which I hate with firey passion] or Quark Xpress.)