In 1995, European Union officials made the mistake of deeming the new European ICT Prize the "Nobel Prize" for innovation in information and communication technologies. Soon after, they received a friendly note from the Nobel Foundation saying they had infringed upon a trademark license, and could face legal action. EU officials promised to cease and desist from such comparisons, and everything resolved amicably.

As harmless as it may seem to invoke the name of Nobel to fashion prestige, the Nobel Prize has been under trademark license for more than 20 years, and Nobel Foundation employees keep a steady eye on news releases and current events, watching for the misuse of the name.

Over the past few years, Foundation employees have seen an increase in the number of illegal uses of the Nobel's good name. "We are currently sending approximately two to three letters of warning per month," says Jonna Petterson,...

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