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Thousands of pesticides, herbicides, and related chemical products are used today to control disease-bearing insect populations and enable large-scale agricultural production that feeds much of the world. This short note traces the history of one small but important aspect of this industry—the assignment of common names to pesticides and related products. The little-known history of pesticide common names is illustrative of a few important points. First, it demonstrates the trend exhibited in many fields for the development of standards to migrate from a governmental agency to a US-based standards organization to an international standards organization. Second, it evidences the concern that many in the standards world have had over the potential capture of common names by private firms through trademark law. The anti-trademark protections built into ANSI’s Standard K62.1-1956 sought to ensure that common names for pesticides and related chemical products would remain available for all manufacturers to use. With the demise of ANSI Committee K-62, direct US participation in the development of pesticide common names has gone by the wayside. Nevertheless, it appears that industry norms, as well as unofficial oversight by WSSA and other scientific bodies, have, thus far, deterred the capture of pesticide common names through trademark law. Even so, it is worth asking whether it is in the best interests of the US industry to cede this important function entirely to international oversight, and whether increased US participation in ISO may be warranted both in this area and others.
Standards Engineering, Nov/Dec 2020, pp. 11-14