----- Original Message ----
So, in fact, Pat Riley did coin a word--a neologism--and now
apparently collects royalties *any time* that word is used on
merchandise (he trademarked it).  If this happened, just what
prevents a language creator from coining every single word
in their dictionary?

It's very important to distinguish "trademark" from "copyright."

The above quote is from a post copyrighted by you, by virtue of you having made it public on this list. You're protected under copyright law. You pay nothing. If you want some additional protections, you can file it with the USPTO, but for basic protection, it's automatic upon publication. But you can't copyright a single word; Pat Riley could *trademark* "Three-Peat," but he couldn't copyright it.

To formally trademark something, there's a lengthy and costly process, enough that a lot of the trademarks that companies claim aren't actually fully legally protected. When you see a (R) after a term, that means that someone has gone through the process and had it approved by the USPTO; when you see a TM, that means (or is supposed to mean) that the company feels it's a unique label, but for whatever reason doesn't want to go through the process (or has and the USPTO has turned them down). Trademarks can also have industry scope, and generally do: Apple Computers made an agreement (which they later violated, and successfully modified) with Apple Records that they could use "Apple" as long as they stayed out of the music industry (that changed with the iPod). And even registered trademark rights can be partially or fully lost if the holder practices insufficient diligence; see "Kleenex" and "Xerox."

Part of the trademark application process includes a period of time where other people can challenge the right to a trademark. Apparently, that's what happened with LucasArts filed a complaint on the grounds that they had a pre-existing computer game (albeit an unsuccessful one) called The Dig, which therefore represents an industry overlap with the website. Since the LucasArts game comes first, it's up to the USPTO to decide if there truly is an industry overlap.

Theoretically, there's nothing preventing me from filing a trademark application on every single word in a conlang lexicon. I would succeed for every word that truly is original. I'm sure such an act would make some trademark lawyers very happy with healthy bank accounts for a long time, though. :)

-- Paul