Saving your Mark from Trademark Genericide
Today, several generic terms that we use, such as ‘escalator,’ ‘xerox,’ ‘cellophane,’
sound common but were once protected as trademarks. How have then they
become generic terms? In the Trademark Law context, genericide, or the
conversion of a trademark into a generic phrase, occurs when a trademark
becomes the generic word for the product or service with which it is associated.
What is Genericide of a Trademark?
Genericide of a trademark occurs when it is reduced to a common term
identifying a category of products. Simply put, trademark genericization is the
death of the mark as it no longer acts as a source indicator of the brand owner. A
wide array of linguistic, legal, and marketing-related factors contribute to
Sadly, targets of genericization are often successful brands whose goods were or
are market leaders in their sector. In a typical example of trademark genericide, a
brand owner invests in promotional strategies to popularize his brand, hoping to
make the product a frontrunner in its category. The brand then becomes not only
successful but also ends up becoming slang to mean the entire product category.
Consumers stop referring to the trademark as a proper noun for the brand
owner’s product but refer to it as a common noun to mean a product category.
Unluckily for the trademark owner, once a trademark becomes generic, it loses
its Trademark Protection and becomes available to the public. It means that
competitors gain the freedom to refer to their products using the genericized
word because that word no longer represents the source of service; instead, it
now represents the product and/or its general category.
However, this is never an overnight phenomenon. It takes several years before a
trademark becomes a victim of genericide. Also, if a trademark becomes generic,
it only becomes generic for specific goods and services. A thermos might be the
generic name for an insulated beverage container, but THERMOS®