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The Everyday Dictionary of Law

The Everyday Dictionary of Law provides legal vocabulary currently in use in common law jurisdictions such as most notably, in the United States. The dictionary is compiled specifically for commercial and intellectual property law practitioners, which provides simple definitions and meanings in American English, for legal terms (including Latin terms) used in formal correspondence, court proceedings, and motion practice as well as common language words that are frequently used in the same. It is a simple reference guide for attorneys, paralegals as well as casual readers who need to check the meaning of a particular legal term in due course of their work.


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Mergers and acquisitions. Describes a business transaction in which two legal business entities become a single entity. In the case of an acquisition, this generally involves the parent company buying and taking ownership of the stock, equity or assets of the target company. Meanwhile, in a merger, two organizations join together to form a new business.


Machine Assisted Reference Section.


Maximum Cumulative Royalty (Rate). With regards to standard essential patents, an MCR is an agreed highest royalty rate for licensing all the patents that relate to a specific standard.
For example: If it is agreed that all the standard essential patents relating to a specified standard should be 8% of the sales price of the product, then a vendor that owned 25% of the standard essential patents would receive 25% of the maximum 8% of royalties.


Manual of Patent Examining Procedure.

Madrid Protocol

The "Protocol Relating to the Madrid Agreement Concerning the International Registration of Marks" (Madrid Protocol) is an international treaty that allows a trademark owner to seek registration in any of the countries that have joined the Madrid Protocol by filing a single application, called an "international application.".

Madrid System

The Madrid System for the International Registration of Trademarks. Similar to the Hague system, it provides a mechanism to register trademarks in multiple countries with a single application.

Maintenance Fees

Fees for maintaining in force a patent based on an application filed on or after December 12, 1980.

Markush Doctrine

When materials recited in a claim are so related as to constitute claiming the members of the claimed group in the alternative, such as "selected from the group consisting of A, B and C.".

Markush Structure

This is a common way of depicting chemical structures in patents, named after Dr Eugene A. Markush. They depict a core structure, but allow symbols to be added that describe potential variants that could be attached to the core structure, without having to define the chemical structure of these variants precisely. It makes them ideal for use in patents, where patent writers do not always want to be explicit about all parts of a structure in order to protect their invention.

Mask Work

Images that are used to create the layers of a semiconductor chip product.

Material Transfer Agreements

Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs) are agreements in commercial and academic research partnerships involving the transfer of biological materials, such as germplasm, microorganisms and cell cultures to exchange of materials from a provider to a recipient and setting conditions for access to public germplasm collections, seed banks or in situ genetic resources. WIPO has developed the Database of Biodiversity-related Access and Benefit-sharing Agreements containing contractual clauses related to the transfer and use of genetic resources. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has developed and adopted in 2006 a Standard Material Transfer Agreement (SMTA) as required for the implementation of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (2001). Appendix I of the Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization suggests elements for material transfer agreements.


A method of alternative dispute resolution which seeks to resolve intellectual property disputes without the need to go to court. The mediator’s role is not to make a decision on the dispute, but to help both parties reach an amicable solution.

Medical Use Claims

Medical use claims are a special type of purpose-limited claim. They are an exception to the normal rules of novelty.

Mere Descriptiveness

Statutory basis (Trademark Act Section 2(e)(1), 15 U.S.C. §1052(e)(1), TMEP 1209 et seq) for refusing registration of trademarks and service marks because the proposed mark merely describes an ingredient, quality, characteristic, function, feature, purpose or use of the specified goods or services. With regard to trademark significance, matter may be categorized along a continuum, ranging from marks that are highly distinctive to matter that is a generic name for the goods or services.
The degree of descriptiveness can be determined only by considering it in relation to the specific goods or services. At one extreme are marks that are completely arbitrary or fanciful. Next on the continuum are suggestive marks, followed by merely descriptive matter. Finally, generic terms for the goods or services are at the opposite end of the continuum from arbitrary or fanciful marks.
The major reasons for not protecting descriptive marks are: (1) to prevent the owner of a mark from inhibiting competition in the sale of particular goods or services; and (2) to maintain freedom of the public to use the language involved, thus avoiding the possibility of harassing infringement suits by the registrant against others who use the mark when advertising or describing their own products.


Metadata summarizes basic information about data, which can make finding and working with particular instances of data easier. For example, the name of the author, the date created and the last date modified as well as file type and file size are examples of very basic document metadata. More information can be found in "How to manage trade secrets".


Madrid International Trademark Electronic Application Submission.

Minimum Documentation PCT

According to the WIPO PCT Glossary, the Minimum Documentation could be described as “the documents in which the International Searching Authority must search for relevant prior art. It also applies to International Preliminary Examining Authorities for examination purposes. The documentation comprises certain published patent documents and non-patent literature contained in a list published by the International Bureau. The Minimum Documentation is set out by the PCT Regulations Rule 34.”


"Minority” refers to a group that is different in some respect from the majority and that is sometimes treated differently as a result. A minority is a group which is numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a State and in a non-dominant position, whose members possess ethnic, religious or linguistic characteristics which differ from those of the rest of the population, and who if only implicitly, maintain a sense of solidarity directed towards preserving their culture, traditions, religion or language.


In the field of intellectual property, “misappropriation” is “the common-law tort of using the non-copyrightable information or ideas that an organization collects and disseminates for a profit to compete unfairly against that organization, or copying a work whose creator has not yet claimed or been granted exclusive rights in the work. […] The elements of misappropriation are: (1) the plaintiff must have invested time, money, or effort to extract the information, (2) the defendant must have taken the information with no similar investment, and (3) the plaintiff must have suffered a competitive injury because of the taking.”
The tort of misappropriation is part of unfair competition law in the common law system. Misappropriation thus entails the wrongful or dishonest use or borrowing of someone’s property, and is often used to find action in cases where no property right as such has been infringed. Misappropriation may refer to wrongful borrowing or to the fraudulent appropriation of funds or property entrusted to someone’s care but actually owned by someone else. For example, Article 3 of the draft Legal Framework for the Protection of Traditional Knowledge in Sri Lanka, 2009, defines “misappropriation” as “(i) acquisition, appropriation or use of traditional knowledge in violation of the provisions of this Act, (ii) deriving benefits from acquisition, appropriation or use of traditional knowledge where the person who acquires, appropriates or uses traditional knowledge is aware of, or could not have been unaware of, or is negligent to become aware of the fact that the traditional knowledge was acquired, appropriated or used by any unfair means and (iii) any commercial activity contrary to honest practices that results in unfair or inequitable benefits from traditional knowledge.”


In the field of patents, “misuse” is “the use of a patent either to improperly extend the granted monopoly to non-patented goods or to violate antitrust laws.” Dictionaries generally define misuse as a wrong, incorrect or improper use, or misapplication. Misuse may also refer to improper or excessive use, or to acts which change the inherent purpose or function of something.


A modification is a change to something. It is a synonym of alteration. Article 6bis of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1971) provides, inter alia, for a right of the author to object to any distortion, mutilation or other modification of his work which would be prejudicial to his honor or reputation.

Motion Pictures

Audiovisual works consist of a series of related images which, when shown in succession, impart an impression of motion, together with accompanying sounds, if any.

Multiple Dependent Claim

A dependent claim which further limits and refers back in the alternative to more than one preceding independent or dependent claim. Acceptable multiple dependent claims shall refer to preceding claims using the terms "or, any one of, one of, any of, either." A multiple dependent claim may not depend on another multiple dependent claim, either directly or indirectly.


“Mutilation” refers to the act of cutting out or excising a part of a thing, especially a book or other document; to change or destroy part of the content or meaning. The protection against mutilation is one attribute of the author’s moral rights, according to Article 6bis of the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1971).

Mutual Respect

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007), in its preamble, considers mutual respect as a standard of achievement to be pursued in a spirit of partnership. “Mutual” relates to two or more people, having the same feelings for each other; standing in reciprocal relation to one another.

Mutually Agreed Terms

Besides recognizing the authority of national governments to determine access to genetic resources, Article 15(4) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) provides that “access, where granted, shall be on mutually agreed terms and subject to the provisions of this Article”. The Executive Secretary of the Convention has noted that contracts are the most common way of recording mutually agreed terms. 107 The Bonn Guidelines on Access to Genetic Resources and Fair and Equitable Sharing of the Benefits Arising out of their Utilization indicate some basic requirements for mutually agreed terms in Articles 41 to 44.

mala fide

/mælə ˈfaɪdɪ/ /meilə ˈfaidi/

Latin for "(in) bad faith". A condition of being fraudulent or deceptive in act or belief.

malum in se

Latin for "wrong in itself". Something considered a universal wrong or evil, regardless of the system of laws in effect.

malum prohibitum

/mæləm prəˈhɪbɪtem/
/mˈæləm prəˈhɪbɪtem/

Latin for "prohibited wrong". Something wrong or illegal by virtue of it being expressly prohibited, that might not otherwise be so.


/mænˈdeɪməs/ /mænˈdeɪməs/

Latin for "we command". A writ issue by a higher court to a lower one, ordering that court or related officials to perform some administrative duty. Often used in the context of legal oversight of government agencies.


/mændeɪtɛərɪəs/ /mænˌdeɪtæriəs/

Latin for "agent".


/mændeɪter/ /mænˌdeɪter/

Latin for "principal".


/mændeɪtem/ /mænˌdeɪtem/

Latin for "mandate". Bilateral agreement for direct representation between a principal and agent.

mare clausum

/mɑːreɪˈklaʊsʊm/ /ˌmɑreɪˈklaʊsəm/

Latin for "closed sea". A body of water under the jurisdiction of a state or nation, to which access is not permitted, or is tightly regulated.

mare liberum

/mɑːreɪˈliːbərʊm/ /mɑreɪˈlibərəm/

Latin for "open sea". A body of water open to all. Typically a synonym for International Waters, or in other legal parlance, the "High Seas".

mea culpa

/meɪɑː ˈkʊlpɑ/ /meɪəˈkʌlpə/

Latin for "through my fault". An acknowledgement of wrongdoing.

mens rea

/mɛnz ˈreɪə/ /menz ˈriə/

Latin for "guilty mind". One of the requirements for a crime to be committed, the other being actus reus, the guilt act. This essentially is the basis for the notion that those without sufficient mental capability cannot be judged guilty of a crime.

modus operandi

/məʊdəs ˌɒpəˈrændi/
/moʊdəs ˌɑpəˈrændaɪ/

Latin for "manner of operation". A person's particular way of doing things. Used when using behavioral analysis while investigating a crime. Often abbreviated "M.O."


/mɒnstrəm/ /mɑnstrəm/

Latin for "monster". Child born with severe deformities. Plural monstra.

mora accipiendi

/mɔːrə æksɪpɪəndi/
/moʊrə æksəpiəndi/

Latin for "delay of the one receiving". Delay in payment or performance in the part of the creditor or obligor. Also known as mora creditoris.

mora solvendi

/mɔːrə sɒlvəndi/ /moʊrə sɒlvəndi/

Latin for "delay of the one paying". Delay in payment or performance in the part of the debtor or the obligee. Also known as mora debitoris.

mora solvendi ex personae

/mɔːrə sɒlvəndi ɪkˈs pɜːˈsəʊni/
/moʊrə sɒlvəndi ɛkˈs pərˈsouni/

Delay in obligations to do or perform personal service

mora solvendi ex re

/mɔːrə sɒlvəndi ɪkˈs reɪ/
/moʊrə sɑlvəndi ɛkˈs reɪ/

Delay in giving or delivering a thing;

mortis causa

/mɔːtɪs ˈkaʊzə/ /mɔrtɪs kɔzə/

Latin for "in contemplation of death". Gift or trust that is made in contemplation of death.

mos pro lege

/meʊs prəʊ liːdʒi/ /moʊs proʊ lidʒi/

Latin for "custom for law". That which is the usual custom has the force of law.

motion in limine

/məʊʃən ɪn ləːmɪn/ /moʊʃən ɪn ˈlɪməni/

Latin for "motion at the start". Motions offered at the start of a trial, often to suppress or pre-allow certain evidence or testimony.

mutatis mutandis

/muːˈtɑːtɪs muːˈtændɪs/
/mjuːˈteitɪs mjuːˈtændɪs/

Latin for "having changed [the things that] needed to be changed". A caution to a reader when using one example to illustrate a related but slightly different situation. The caution is that the reader must adapt the example to change what is needed for it to apply to the new situation.

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