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"Great oaks from little acorns grow" --BE AWARE

Posted by R. Berg on July 30, 2005

In Reply to: "Great oaks from little acorns grow" --BE AWARE posted by Bob on July 29, 2005

: : : : : : : : : I would like to use the phrase "Great oaks from little acorns grow" for the 'motto' of the nursery school I am opening. I need to know whether it has a copyright law on it and therefore whether I could use it.

: : : : : : : : You're on safe ground. From archives and elsewhere on this site:

: : : : : : : : GREAT OAKS FROM LITTLE ACORNS GROW - "Great people begin as small children. Great successes often develop from something very small. The proverb is similar to the L*tin: Parvis e glandibus quercus ('Tall oaks from little acorns grown'). It appears in Chaucer's 'Troilus and Criseyde' (c. 1385). First attested in the United States in 'Life of Jefferson S. Batkins' . The phrase may take different forms." Including "mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). Page 125.

: : : : : : : : Meaning
: : : : : : : : Great things start with small beginnings.
: : : : : : : : Origin

: : : : : : : : The word acorn doesn't come from 'oak' and 'corn', as is popularly supposed, but from the Old English 'aecern', meaning berry or fruit. The tree genus Acer comes from the same root.

: : : : : : : :
: : : : : : : Safely PD, as they say, in the Public Domain and free of the copyright laws. Use it with impunity. Be careful singing "Happy Birthday to You," however. Many a filmmaker has been rudely surprised to find that that little ditty is still protected.

: : : : : : The Hill sisters from Kentucky wrote it. I'm claiming credit for my adopted state.

: : : : : Two comments. ESC is right about the origin of Acer. However, the word is the name of the maple genus, not oak (which is Quercus). About Happy Birthday, I may be mistaken but I believe that only the words are in copyright. Play the tune as much as you like. SS
: : : : Or you could sing it to the Hill sisters' original (out-of-copyright) words:
: : : : Good morning to you,
: : : : Good morning to you,
: : : : Good morning, dear children,
: : : : Good morning to all.
: : : : They actually wrote it as a morning greeting song for a kindergarten, so that would be absolutely appropriate. (VSD)

: : : Mrs. Agricole--I do not mean to alarm you. Copyright is not the only issue you should be concerned with when naming a business--at least in the US. You also need to be concerned that the use of that name (or one substantively similar) for a similar business class has not been trademarked by the US Patent and Trademark Office. (You can do an on-line search:

: : : You also should do a search (either on-line or manually) at any local (township, village, etc), city, state and county offices to make sure no one is using that name for a similar business and where they have registered the name with the local, city, state and/or county offices. You should also do a search on at least the state level (multiple states if you plan to do business in more than one state) to determine whether it has been registered as a Corporation, LLC, General Partnership, Limited Partnership, or Sole Proprietorship. It takes some time (there are services that will do this for you at a cost), but well worth it in the long run because if you get yourself all set up to do business (signage, letterhead, advertising, etc.) and are sued for using a protected name (or even an allegedly protected name), the legal fees could have a serious negative impact on your finances--even if you win. Been there, done that!

: : P.S. My post also relates to the use of something protected as a "motto" for a business.

: Thanks. That's a good link to the Patent Office to execute a quick search for a trademark.

Acer is indeed the genus of maples. ESC didn't call it the genus of oaks. She called it a "tree genus."

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