Why Brand Owners must avoid Generic Trademarks

When it comes to trademark registration in the UAE, avoiding generic trademarks should be at the top of your trademark checklist. If you submit a generic trademark for your brand name, the UAE trademark office will reject it. Since a generic trademark is one of the top grounds for trademark refusal in the UAE, brand owners should take special care while selecting a trademark.

Consulting with trademark agents in the UAE is one of the best ways to avoid generic trademarks. However, most small business and startup owners seem to have only a vague idea about what a generic trademark is and why they should avoid it.

What Is a Generic Trademark?

A generic trademark can be a word or a phrase that becomes a common term for an entire class of goods or services over a period. A generic trademark offers you little or no protection as per the UAE trademark law. The trademark aspirin has become a generic trademark due to continued use over time. People use the term ‘aspirin’ to refer to all products in the market that are used to relieve headaches, muscle aches, and pains, regardless of their brand.

Can Generic Terms be Trademarked?

Based on their strength and the level of protection they offer, trademarks are classified into fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, generic and descriptive. Of all the types of trademarks, generic trademarks offer no protection for brand owners. To qualify for trademark registration in the UAE or in any other jurisdiction, a word or phrase needs to have a certain level of distinctiveness that makes it stand apart from other words and phrases used to describe similar products. Since generic trademark lack this quality, you cannot register a generic term in the UAE.

Why you can’t trademark a generic term?

Countless brands in your industry will be using a generic term and hence you cannot trademark the term. Granting trademark registration for a generic term will put the other brands at an unfair disadvantage. For example, if the UAE Ministry of Economy allows registration for the term ‘Shawarma’, the other companies in the industry will not be able to describe their competing product. Trademark agents in the UAE advise you to opt for rebranding if your proposed trademark falls under the generic category of trademarks.

Is descriptive and generic trademark the same?

When it comes to the spectrum of trademark strength, both descriptive and generic trademarks offer the lowest degree of protection. However, a descriptive trademark is slightly different from a generic trademark. A descriptive trademark is even slightly stronger than a generic one. While a generic trademark characterises an entire category of goods or services, descriptive trademarks describe a characteristic of a product or service.

The terms ‘cold and creamy’ in the brand Cold and Creamy Ice Cream would be regarded as descriptive. Unlike a generic trademark, a descriptive trademark can qualify for trademark registration in the UAE if it acquires distinctiveness due to continuous use in commerce. Examples of descriptive terms that have acquired distinctiveness and become protectable include SHARP for television and HOLIDAY INN for hotel services. However, it is advisable to avoid both generic and descriptive trademarks.

Can a distinctive trademark become generic eventually?

A fanciful trademark offers the highest level of protection for brands because fanciful terms are invented words that are not available in the dictionary. Such terms are inherently distinctive as they have been invented for the sole purpose of functioning as a trademark and have no other meaning than acting as a mark. For example, EXXON, ROLEX and KODAK. However, even a highly distinctive trademark can turn into a generic term due to continuous use over time.

XEROX for the photocopying brand used to be a strong trademark but turned generic as people started using the term to describe photocopying machines of all other brands due to its popularity. We call it “genericide” when a string trademark turns generic over time due to continued use. Trademark agents in the UAE can provide you with further information on the genericide of a strong trademark.

Popular Examples of Generic Trademarks

The following are some examples of generic trademarks:

  • Band-Aid (Adhesive bandages)
  • Frisbee (Flying disc)
  • Ping-Pong (Table tennis)
  • Velcro (Hook-and-loop fastener)
  • Thermos (vacuum-insulated bottle)

Consult with the Best Trademark Agents in the UAE

While conducting trademark registration in the UAE, you must avoid choosing generic terms. If you face any issues with generic trademarks, consult with the best trademark agents in the UAE such as Jitendra Intellectual Property (JIP). We are one of the leading providers of trademark services in the UAE with years of experience and thousands of satisfied clients.

JIP can take care of your trademark protection strategy by offering services such as trademark registration, renewal, trademark search, and trademark watch services in the UAE. We also offer international trademark protection services through the Madrid Protocol. Avail of our brand registration services in the UAE to ensure your valued trademark remains protected wherever you have the business.

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