Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (formerly a trademark of Sun, formerly a trademark of Netscape).

What was formerly a trademark of Netscape?
Sun?
Oracle?
JavaScript?

How would one recast the sentence to unambiguously give each of the alternate meanings?


[EDIT]
The sentence is merely an example. The question relates to correctly structuring a sentence for clarity.

share|improve this question
1  
Just for info. The sentence in question is a quote, as clear from the italics -- it's not my sentence. :) –  Kris Feb 21 '12 at 5:14
    
Why are the answers out of date? The question features an example sentence and asks about sentence structure, surely. The answer won't have changed. –  Andrew Leach Oct 31 '12 at 14:44
    
@AndrewLeach Users and user experience are not the same. There's a need for a more convincing answer. cf. New answers. –  Kris Oct 31 '12 at 14:48
    
As stated in FumbleFingers' answer, the example and question don't make sense in a way. JavaScript is the only trademark. Sun and Oracle are companies who have owned it (along with Netscape). Can you re-pose the question with an example that makes sense? For example, Oracle owns the trademark for JavaScript (formerly a trademark of Sun, formerly a trademark of Netscape) –  Fuhrmanator Nov 1 '12 at 6:20
    
@Fuhrmanator You could add the required 'sense' with an appropriate answer. The logic in your comment qualifies it for an answer. –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 6:23
add comment

8 Answers 8

You could always break it up into separate sentences (if it's important enough to leave parentheses):

It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle. The name was formerly a trademark of Sun (and before that a trademark of Netscape).

If you don't like that, you might try putting it into a chronological list:

It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" was first a trademark of Netscape, then of Sun, and then of Oracle.

share|improve this answer
    
+1 It is widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle. The name was formerly a trademark of Sun, and before that, a trademark of Netscape. Or, "The trademark "Javascript" was first owned by Netscape, then Sun, and currently Oracle." –  JustinC Oct 30 '12 at 16:01
    
OP asks "how would one recast the sentence" so it explicitly and unambiguously conveyed for each of the three possibilities (that each of Sun, Oracle, and JavaScript was formerly a trademark of Netscape), so I assume he wants three different single sentences. This answer only seems to address the third possibility there. –  FumbleFingers Oct 30 '12 at 17:59
    
@FumbleFingers Using the formats I provided, one could rearrange Sun, Oracle, JavaScript, and Netscape: "It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Netscape. The name was formerly a trademark of Sun (and before that a trademark of Oracle)." Or "It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" was first a trademark of Oracle, then of Sun, and then of Netscape." –  Airhogs777 Oct 30 '12 at 23:09
    
None of your rephrasings carry the meanings "Sun was formerly a trademark of Netscape", and "Oracle was formerly a trademark of Netscape". Those are two of the three meanings that OP specifically asks for, which you've completely ignored. Everyone agrees that OP's original sentence conveys the third meaning "JavaScript was formerly a trademark of Netscape". I just don't understand why people are upvoting what seems to me to be a complete "non-answer" here. –  FumbleFingers Oct 31 '12 at 1:31
1  
@FumbleFingers What I provided was one way to disambiguate the original sentence, what order the names are in isn't the issue. –  Airhogs777 Oct 31 '12 at 3:31
show 3 more comments

What was formerly a trademark of Netscape?

  • Sun?

It is widely known that the name Javascript is a trademark now the property of Oracle but once owned by Sun (a trademark registered by Netscape).

  • Oracle?

It is widely known that the name Javascript is a trademark of Oracle (which is itself a trademark of Netscape, later owned by Sun).

  • JavaScript?

It is widely known that the name Javascript is a trademark owned by Oracle (and acquired by them via Sun from its original owner, Netscape).

share|improve this answer
1  
+1 for sticking to OP's question (and covering it in far less words than me! :) –  FumbleFingers Oct 31 '12 at 13:55
add comment

Let me try:

  1. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (formerly by Sun, and prior to that by Netscape).
  2. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" (formerly a trademark of Sun, formerly a trademark of Netscape) is trademarked by Oracle
share|improve this answer
1  
The second "formerly" in the second example is still ambiguous –  Nir Levy Oct 28 '12 at 11:56
add comment

Grammatically, I think the parenthetical clause can only refer to the antecedent "Oracle". I don't know the real-world relationships and histories, but I believe that, like Netscape, Sun and Oracle are "companies" rather than "trademarks" in OP's context.

That being so, OP's sentence isn't just "ambiguous". It's either "ungrammatical" (because the parenthetical clause can't refer all the way back to "Javascript"), or gibberish (because it mixes up "trademarks" and "companies that own trademarks"). I'm guessing what OP really means is...

1. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle. It was formerly a trademark of Sun - and prior to that, of Netscape.

...or...

2. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (it was formerly a trademark of Sun - and prior to that, of Netscape).

The brackets in (2) retain OP's "single sentence", but I think it makes for an ungainly construction. But in both cases the "primary subject" of the first sentence/clause is the name "JavaScript", which the second it unambiguously references.


Addressing OP's second request - sticking with a single sentence, and ignoring "real-world" semantic issues with the example...

3. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (itself formerly a trademark of Sun - and prior to that, of Netscape). ["Oracle" was a trademark of Netscape].

4. It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (it was formerly a trademark of Sun, which was itself formerly a trademark of Netscape). ["Sun" was a trademark of Netscape].

Note that (3) is essentially just OP's original, with the word "itself" added to guide the reader towards the intended (but semantically problematic) interpretation.

Grammatically speaking, "itself" is again an "optional guide" in (4), but because we're dealing with an even more convoluted set of interrelationships, I'd extend it to "which was itself" to make the intended sense clear.

I'm not sure I'd ever write (4) as a single sentence, but at least this shows how it could be done.

share|improve this answer
    
Agree, the OP's sentence implies that Netscape was the owner of the Sun trademark, which was an owner of the Oracle trademark. –  Nir Levy Oct 28 '12 at 11:55
    
@Nir Levy: Quite. I don't really see any scope for interpreting OP's original differently on grammatical grounds, so I can only assume the bounty is because no-one has answered "part two" (how to unambiguously and grammatically convey that Sun and/or Oracle were formerly trademarks of Netscape). So I guess I'd better have a go at that bit... –  FumbleFingers Oct 28 '12 at 14:34
add comment

I understand your sentence as meaning that the trademark was passed from Netscape to Sun, and thence to Oracle but, as you say, your writing is ambiguous.

If the history is not important, just leave it out.

If the history is important, you should state it clearly rather than hiding it in parentheses and abbreviations:

It’s widely known that JavaScript is a trademark of Oracle. Oracle acquired the trademark when they acquired Sun in 2007, who bought the trademark from Netscape in ....

If you are just stating these facts for some kind of legalistic reasons and don’t really care, then leave it as it is. People who care can check the facts for themselves.

share|improve this answer
    
Wish I knew how to upvote. –  Edwin Ashworth Oct 15 '12 at 22:22
    
@EdwinAshworth: You can upvote by clicking the up-arrow above the vote score to the left of the answer. –  awe Oct 29 '12 at 11:30
add comment

This is what came to my mind:

It's widely known that Oracle owns the "JavaScript" trademark (acquired with Sun, which had acquired it with Netscape).

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's widely known that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle (formerly a trademark of Sun, formerly a trademark of Netscape).

How about:

It's widely know that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle, and prior to that [was trademarked] by Sun and Netscape.

I think you can omit the part in brackets, but some might demand it for clarification.

And for the other meaning (which is of course factually incorrect, but interesting nonetheless):

It's widely know that the name "JavaScript" is trademarked by Oracle; "Oracle" and "Sun" also having been trademarked by Netscape.

share|improve this answer
add comment

As stated in FumbleFingers' answer, the example and question don't make sense. The problem is with the expression in parentheses modifying Oracle (as opposed to JavaScript, which is the trademark). Sun and Oracle are companies who have owned it (along with Netscape).

It is widely known that Oracle owns the trademark for the name "JavaScript" (which is formerly a trademark of Sun, and formerly a trademark of Netscape).

share|improve this answer
    
How do you draw the interpretation? Do we know the facts a priori? –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 6:30
    
So, you're saying hypothetically that your first example is correct? –  Fuhrmanator Nov 1 '12 at 6:31
    
See also english.stackexchange.com/questions/58576/… –  Kris Nov 1 '12 at 6:31
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.