Curious case of Genericide: Words that used to be Trademarks
It is interesting to note that many words that we casually use in our everyday life are trademarks. For example, while conducting trademark registration in the UAE Brand owners may need to submit many documents. Instead of asking someone to photocopy those documents, you may say “XEROX those documents”. You may be surprised when we say words like Xerox are not actual words but trademarks.
Words once used to be distinctive trademarks turned ‘verbs’ due to an IP phenomenon called genericide. Registered trademarks become generic words due to their overwhelming popularity and continuous usage of the term in our daily lives. Genericide takes the uniqueness and distinctiveness away from a registered trademark rendering it ‘weak’ and hard to enforce. Trademark agents in the UAE can advise you on how to avoid genericide.
Now, let’s delve deep into some of the common words that used to be strong trademarks once:
Popsicle is a type of frozen snack on a stick that comes in beautiful colours. Even though it is loved by kids across the world, the popsicle is not the original name of the snack. Ice pop is the name of the snack and Popsicle is a brand specialising in ice pops. A California-based company called Good Humor-Breyers is the owner of the registered trademark Popsicle. We rarely use the term ice pop these days but POPSICLE rings a bell.
Most of us have been under the impression that Velcro means hook-and-loop fastener that we see in our shoes, clothes etc. However, how many of us know that VELCRO is the name of the brand and the company that invented the unique types of fasteners? The brand Velcro belongs to Velcro IP Holdings LLC, which is a privately held company located in the UK and founded by George de Mestral in the 1950s. The VELCRO trademark consists of a logo trademark and a wordmark.
When you get a cut on your body, you may need a Band-Aid. Wait, is it Band-Aid or a bandage? It is Band-Aid if you are looking for an adhesive bandage sold by the famous Johnson & Johnson company. Band-Aid is a registered trademark of the American pharmaceutical and medical devices company Johnson & Johnson. Invented in 1920, the brand Band-Aid has become a generic term for adhesive bandages in many countries across the world. This is a typical case of genericide and you can stop it happening to your brand by consulting with trademark agents in the UAE before selecting a brand name.
The genericide of Aspirin is one of the most famous and oldest cases of trademark genericide. Also known as acetylsalicylic acid, Aspirin, is a popular medicinal remedy for pain, fever and inflammation. However, ASPIRIN was the registered trademark of the company Bayer AG. However, the company lost its trademark rights over the brand name in many countries over the years. However, ASPIRIN is legally considered a trademark in many parts of the US.
Escalator is the brand name of a moving staircase coined by combining the words “scale” (Latin for “step”) and “elevator”. The escalator is an 1897 invention made by the Otis Elevator Company. Nowadays, we can’t imagine shopping malls without escalators no matter which company manufactured the moving staircase.
Frisbee is a registered trademark of the Wham-O toy company. However, the public freely uses the term to refer to any flying disc regardless of the brand or manufacturer. Genericide caused people to use the term for any flying disc that is used recreationally and competitively for throwing and catching. You can consider the genericide of ‘Frisbee’ as a cautionary tale while trying to register a trademark in the UAE. It will help you take steps to save your brand from being generic.
The Paradox of strong marks becoming generic
Unique and fanciful words enjoy the highest level of protection in the spectrum of trademark strength. Coined words are easy to register and difficult to copy. However, their strength is their biggest weakness when it comes to genericide. Nearly all the brand names that suffered genericide are strong and fanciful. Made-up words become vulnerable to brand genericide because there is no other way to describe them. Words like XEROX, FRISBEE and ASPIRIN are prime examples of the vulnerability of made-up terms.
How to avoid trademark genericide?
Before conducting trademark registration in the UAE, brand owners need to assess their proposed brand name. They need to review the chances of a potential genericide in the future and take steps in advance. The following steps can help:
- Hire trademark watch services in the UAE to monitor improper usage of your mark
- Launch specific marketing campaigns to nip things in the bud (XEROX does this)
- Use the brand as an adjective (not a noun) alongside the generic term (LEGO blocks, KLEENEX tissues etc.)
- Prepare a standard, written explanation for the correct usage of the mark
- Consider using the ® registration symbol along with your mark
Hire Trademark Agents in UAE to Stop Brand Genericide
You can take a leaf from the fate of some of the brands listed here to avoid the same misfortune happening to your mark. Before conducting trademark registration in the UAE, it is advisable to consult with experts in the field such as Jitendra Intellectual Property (JIP). We are one of the leading trademark agents in the UAE with years of experience and proven expertise.
Our highly qualified trademark agents aim to reshape the concept of brand protection and provide access to quality & affordable trademark registration services in the UAE. We ensure your trademark remains protected throughout its lifespan by carrying out a trademark search, trademark watch and trademark renewal services. JIP also offers international trademark registration services through the Madrid Protocol. Contact us for a consultation on how to protect your trademark in the UAE and across the world.