How can Bud Lawrence own the rights to the word "frindle", in Frindle?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Everyone knows that Nick made up the word frindle because he appeared on talk shows saying he did.

In Frindle, Nick decides to make up a new word for pen.  He calls it a frindle.  Nick is only a fifth grader, but his teacher ensures that the word gets media attention by not giving in and insisting on punishing anyone who uses the word.  As a result, the word gets popular and kids being using it, and since they are punished for using it, the adults are soon hearing about it.

A local newspaper reporter writes about the story, and soon it goes to regional and then national media outlets.  Soon, people want to buy things with the word frindle on them.  Bud Lawrence’s lawyer advises him that the orders are “trouble.”

The whole country knows that that little kid made up the word, and unless you make a deal with his dad, you’re going to end up with nothing—maybe even a big fat lawsuit.  That kid owns that word. (ch 12, p. 78)

As a result, Lawrence buys the rights to the word from Nick’s dad.  Bud Lawrence gives Nick’s dad a contract for 30% of the profits, and a check for $2,250 for the amount he has sold already.