Margaret Marks of Transblawg has a post describing the attempt by Bremen lawyer Klaus Göken to file a patent application in Low German for “a sort of biodegradable mat for cattle to lie on,” which was to be called a Läägeünnerloage, the dialect form of what Margaret says would be Liegeunterlage (literally ‘lying-underlay’) in High German. The application was first rejected, even accompanied by a translation into High German, because “had the Lower German version been accepted, a precedent would have been set, leading to an unavoidable abundance of applications in other dialects and minority languages; this would make official procedures incomprehensible.” A second application in High German was accepted, and the term Läägeünnerloage is now a Gebrauchsmuster (translated as “utility model,” which seems awkward and uninformative; my German-English dictionary gives “protection of patterns and designs” for Gebrauchsmusterschutz, so I would think “(legally protected) pattern” would be a better term).
The most interesting feature of the case, to me, is the question of how far dialect can and should be legally accepted; the most charming thing about Margaret’s post is the following paragraph:
The item itself has been almost forgotten in all this language disputing. It is selling very well, creates warmth and there are 10% to 15% fewer deaths among piglets as a result.