Genericization: A topic that drives me crazy! Found common in the South and Midwest!
A generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a trademark or brand name that has become the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, rather than as an indicator of source or affiliation (“secondary meaning”) as intended by the trademark’s holder. Using a genericized trademark to refer to the general form of what that trademark represents is a form of metonymy.
A trademark is said to fall somewhere along a scale from “distinctive” to “generic” (used primarily as a common name for the product or service rather than an indication of source). Among distinctive trademarks the scale goes from strong to weak:
“Arbitrary”: having no meaning as to the nature of the product
“Fanciful” or “coined”: original and having little if any reference to the nature of the product or service
“Suggestive”: having primarily trademark significance but with suggestion as to nature of product
“Descriptive”: not just suggesting, but actually describing the product or service yet still understood as indicating source
“Merely descriptive”: having almost entirely reference to the product or service but capable of becoming “distinctive”.
A trademark is said to be genericized when it began as distinctive but has changed in meaning to become generic. A trademark typically becomes “genericized” when the products or services with which it is associated have acquired substantial market dominance or mind share such that the primary meaning of the genericized trademark becomes the product or service itself rather than an indication of source for the product or service to such an extent that the public thinks the trademark is the generic name of the product or service. A trademark thus popularized has its legal protection at risk in some countries such as the United States, as unless the owner of an affected trademark works sufficiently to correct and prevent such broad use its intellectual property rights in the trademark may be lost and competitors enabled to use the genericized trademark to describe their similar products.
Genericization or “loss of secondary meaning” may be either among the general population or among just a subpopulation, for example, people who work in a particular industry. Some examples of the latter type from the vocabulary of physicians include the names Luer-Lok (Luer lock) and Port-a-Cath (portacath), which have genericized mind share (among physicians) because (1) the users may not realize that the term is a brand name rather than a medical eponym or generic-etymology term, and (2) no alternate generic name for the idea readily comes to mind. Most often, genericization occurs because of heavy advertising that fails to provide an alternate generic name or that uses the trademark in similar fashion to generic terms. Thus, when Otis Elevator Company advertised that it offered “the latest in elevator and escalator design,” it was using the well-known generic term elevator and Otis’s trademark “Escalator” for moving staircases in the same way. The Trademark Office and the Courts concluded that, if Otis used their trademark in that generic way, they could not stop Westinghouse from calling its moving staircases “escalators”, and a valuable trademark was lost through “genericization.”
The pharmaceutical industry affords some protection from genericization due to the modern practice of assigning a generic name for a drug based upon chemical structure. Examples of genericization before the modern system of generic drugs include aspirin, introduced to the market in 1897, and heroin, introduced in 1898. Both were originally trademarks of Bayer AG.
A few examples of trademarks that have lost their legal protection in the US are:
See Aqua-lung#Trademark issues.
Aspirin, originally a trademark of Bayer AG
Butterscotch, originally a trademark of S. Parkinson & Sons
Escalator, originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company
Heroin, originally a trademark of Bayer AG
Kerosene, originally a trademark of Abraham Gesner
Phillips-head screw, named after Henry F. Phillips
Pogo for the toy Pogo stick
Thermos, originally a trademark of Thermos GmbH
Yo-yo, originally a trademark of Duncan Yo-Yo Company
Zipper, originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich
While Linoleum, coined by its inventor and patent holder Frederick Walton, is the first product term ruled by a court as generic, it was never used as a trademark.
Other trademarks have come close to genericization, but have been rescued by aggressive corrective campaigns. Such is the case with Xerox for photocopiers, Plexiglas for shatter-resistant polymer glass, Kleenex for facial tissues, Band-Aid for adhesive bandages, and others. A trademark owner takes a risk in engaging in such a corrective campaign because the campaign may serve as an admission that the trademark is generic. So, the owner must irreversibly commit to continuing the campaign until relatively sure the trademark has achieved primary meaning as a trademark rather than as a common name of the product or service.
Almost all of us are guilty of a little Genericization especially when it comes to products like band-aids!
But we have to keep in mind people’s blood, sweat and tears go into these products and to get their creative name stolen from them is often heartbreaking!
The one that drives me the craziest is in the south! When you go to a restaurant and they ask you if you want a Coke. I said ok and they say well what kind do you want? You just asked me if I want a Coke yes I want a Coke! Sir what kind do you want? Pepsi, orange, diet, sprite? I’m like are you serious!!! A Coke is a Coke! A diet coke is a Diet Coke! I can see if you asked me do you want a Coke then say regular or diet, but orange is not a Coke! It may be Sunkist or something, but it’s definitely not a Coke! The same goes for Sprite, Dr Pepper (mr pibb) or anything else! And don’t start saying some of them are made by the Coke a Cola bottling company, because then I’ll ask you if Fuze (a juice like drink) is a Coke and when you say no that’s a Fuze or juice, I’ll say that’s made by Coke a Cola so it must be a Coke!
That drives me crazy!
Also in St Louis MO they like to say give me a Scott Towel. I said what’s a Scott towel? She said stop playing and give me a Scott towel! I said what’s a Scott towel she said this! I said oh a paper towel. She said yes a Scott towel I said can’t you read this says Brawny! In NJ I use Marcal! This is a paper towel!!
The same goes for tissues! They say give me a Kleenex! I said you mean tissue! She said no Kleenex! I said again can’t you read this says puffs plus! It’s a tissue or facial tissue if you want to be specific!!
We have to keep in mind, that these companies fought hard to make themselves the leader in their field!
A newer example is Google! I hear a lot of people saying: what’s the
Fill in the blank
eg: what’s the best energy drink? Answer: I don’t know go google it!
No! Google has fought hard to be number one! The answer is idk go search! Or go surf!
Genericization is a serious problem! Imagine you make the next cutting edge product maybe the next greatest thing compared to the pet rock or sea monkeys and then the government says everyone can call their copy of your product the same thing! You will be sad and heartbroken! Made even broke! Because they can buy the same name product for half or less of what you originally sold it for!
Just look at the Phillip head screwdriver!
You can buy a Snap-On for $14 or go to the dollar store and buy a cheap one for a $1
sad sad sad!