The Risk of Trademarks Becoming Too Generic

A trademark is a way of identifying a unique product or service. It’s a valuable asset and marketing tool for a business.⠀

It can be either a;⠀

➕Letter⠀

➕Number⠀

➕Phrase⠀

➕Logo⠀

➕Word⠀

➕Picture⠀

➕Aspect of packaging ⠀

➕or combination of the above ⠀

Did you know, that as a result of their success, some trademarks risk becoming too generic? And this can work against a brand.⠀

“Brand Genericide” describes the process where a trademark brand owner (sometimes unknowingly) participates in the destruction of the distinctiveness of its trademark. It’s also when consumers increasingly use the name of the trademark to describe its products or services. This is especially common with innovative and unique products.⠀

Trademark Genericism affects many industry sectors and the risks include;

➕The trademark losing its ‘distinctiveness’ and exclusivity⠀

➕Difficulty in court cases defending the trademark⠀

➕Competitor brands gaining the right to use the generic trademark on their goods⠀

With the risks being much higher if there are no comparable descriptions or generic terms to describe a product due to it being a new invention. ⠀

Some examples of generic trademarks:

➕Linoleum

➕Escalator

➕Jacuzzi

➕Jet Ski

➕Velcro

➕Bubble Wrap

➕Thermos

➕Post-It

➕Aspirin

➕Band-Aid

Case Studies:

➕Google

In an attempt to avoid ‘Google’ becoming genericised and used as a verb by consumers, Google has published “rules for proper usage” of all its trademarks.

➕Twitter

In the past, Twitter has also addressed concerns about brand genericide in its 2013 Initial Public Offering stating; “there is a risk that the word ‘tweet’ could become so commonly used that it becomes synonymous with any short comment posted publicly on the internet, and if this happens, we could lose protection of this trademark.”

So how can a brand avoid genericide? Whilst it’s a marketing team’s dream to have their trademarked item become a household name, it’s important that brand owners are careful of how they market their trademark. It also helps if a trade mark is accompanied by a description and used as an adjective rather than a noun. For example, “Levi’s Jeans.”⠀

Business owners can also assert their trademark rights by placing the appropriate symbol beside the trademark. The appropriate symbol is ™️ where the trademark is not registered and ®️ where registration has been obtained.

Do you need assistance registering a trademark? Head to our trademarks page for more information here.