Trademark Issues: What Names To Use

Windex or window cleaner?
Windex or window cleaner? | Source

Trademark Name

What names to use sounds like a pretty frivolous question? Why wouldn't you know what name to use? Well suppose you want to blow your nose, what would you ask for (what name would you use)...a tissue or a Kleenex ? What if you want to make a copy of something, would you say you want to copy it or Xerox it? When you want to clean the windows do you ask for the window cleaner or the Windex ? Do you get where this is going? We've come to use brand names as generic names. There's actually a name for that, they call it "trademark erosion" or "trademark dilution". It's when the trademark name of something becomes so common it is used in place of the object's real name. I know this has been uppermost in your thoughts so I thought I would write a hub about it!

Ever play with a yo-yo ? That was once a trademark name for the Duncan Yo-Yo Company. Thermos was a trademark name from Thermos GmbH but everyone calls any insulated 'flask' a thermos. What about Band-aids, a name everyone uses for adhesive bandages. The list goes on...

Product Name vs Brand Name

Trademark names - Aspirin is really Bayer's trademark name
Trademark names - Aspirin is really Bayer's trademark name | Source
Would you eat these crackers?
Would you eat these crackers? | Source
Trademark names we're familiar with
Trademark names we're familiar with | Source

There are so many more that we don't even think about, we're just so used to using the trademark name we've never given it a second thought. Trade mark names have become common names. This is not a good thing for the originator of the trademark. Let's face it, I'm sure Kimberly-Clark Worlwide, Inc. is not happy that everyone is using their trademark name Kleenex to denote every facial tissue, bathroom tissue or even paper towel. They want you to buy their brand, KLEENEX, not Marcal or any other brand purporting to be a Kleenex. The sad part is it isn't the other brands stealing their name it's the public. Their products become so popular that their name is synonymous with that particular product no matter who makes it.

Trademark law was instituted to protect the consumer as well as the corporation producing the product. You know the quality you will get when you see Kleenex on the box. Since we're delving into names do you know the difference between a trademark vs trade name? The Business Law Post says the trade name is the official name of the business while trademark is explained; "Trademark, on the other hand, is any word, design, slogan, sound or symbol that serves to identify the source of goods or services (service mark). " Trademarks are (or should be) registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office.

So you know "Kleenex" is a trademark. Now onto the issue of trademarks becoming common names. Here's where things get a little sticky. You have "trademark infringement" which is when someone uses a trademark on their product without permission. Going back to our "Kleenex" for example, if another tissue company makes tissues and puts them in a box marked "Kleenex" that is trademark infringement.

Then there's trademark dilution. Trademark dilution occurs when someone uses the name Kleenex on a totally different product. For example, suppose they market jump ropes with the name Kleenex. This "dilutes" the name and can confuse customers who thought Kleenex only made tissues.

Introduction to Trademark Dilution

Trademarks that have become Common Names

Product
Description
Company
Walkman
portable music player
Sony
Aspirin
acetylsalic acid
Bayer
cellophane
thin, transparent sheet
Innovia Films Ltd. in Europe
Q-Tips
cotton swabs
Unilever
Matchbox
die cast toy cars
Mattell
Jello
gelatin dessert
Kraft Foods
Formica
wood or plastic laminate
Formica Corporation
Clorox
bleach
Clorox Bleach Company
Onesies
all in one infant body suite
Gerber Products

Trademark Erosion

Then there is trademark erosion which is where I think I began. The trademark becomes so generic that people use the trademark name in place of the product. Again, I use Kleenex. instead of saying "give me a tissue" a lot of people say "give me a Kleenex." Once this happens and the trademark becomes common it can't be registered anymore. The definition states "and the company failed to prevent it." I don't see how Kimberly-Clark could have prevented it. So, thought it still uses Kleenex to denote it's products there may be difficulty registering the name because of its trademark erosion.

Here's one that's been changed and used as a verb as in "Google it", it is something you do. I'm sure Google did not intend to have its name become a common term used to search the internet. The difference here is the name is not 'exactly' the same but part of the term and I believe it has generated customers for Google. If you want to look it up, "Google it."

Want more? Read on;

Frisbee

While most variations of the plastic toys brand it as a flying disc, the commonly used term "frisbee" is actually trademarked to the Wham-O toy company. Originally called the "Pluto Platter", sales took off in 1959 under its now common moniker. Wham-O also owns the trademark to the Hacky Sack, the Slip 'n Slide and Boogie boards. (News 9 Finance, http://finance.ninemsn.com.au/executivesuite/downtime/8442709/the-most-surprising-copyrights-and-trademarks)

In 1886 Coca-cola drink got registered as a trademark. In 1893 The Coca-Cola logo got registered as a trademark and has since become the brand’s corporate identity. In 1935 the name “Coke” was registered as a trademark. In 1977 the now-familiar contour bottle shape was granted registration as a trademark. http://www.thecoca-colacompany/heritage/pdf/cokelore/Heritage_CokeLore_trademarkchronology.pdf

What’s the average age of a trademark?There is no rule. Some trademarks are more than 100 years old,but some of them disappear from the market really fast.Nowdays, the biggest trademark threat is a process calledtrademark generification. (Slideshare, http://www.slideshare.net/NonstopdesignZona/google-doesnt-like-you-googling-10612809)

Registered Trademark symbol
Registered Trademark symbol | Source

Registering a Trademark

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office website, you do NOT have to register a trademark however registering one has it's advantages such as being able to sue someone for stealing your trademark, the right to record your trademark with customs and the right to use the trademark symbol "®" or "TM" and most importantly your trademark can make your product instantly recognizable. The interesting thing is it can take from one to several years for you to hear from the Patent office after you've filed for a trademark. Bureaucracy at work? But, stop and think, how easy is it to recognize the Coca Cola trademark or the MacDonald's trademark?

Well, now you know more than you ever wanted to know about trademarks, but you have to admit some of it was interesting. So, what name to use? Do you use the trademark name, the generic name, the common name? Of course it's all up to you and most likely what the rest of the world is using.

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved

Famous Trademarks

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Comments 12 comments

fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Tillie...You come up with the most unique & interesting Hub ideas! That brain of your ticks away like a fine oiled machine.

This is so true and also, so common-place, we don't even realize we're using a trademark name for an item.

I happen to think of one...."Levi's" I hear that used a lot to refer to any pair of denim jeans........and speaking of, I remember the first time I heard my husband refer to his jeans as....ready? "DUNGAREES!!" Nothing like exposing what generation you came from!! lol


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Ouch, I remember 'dungarees' VERY well. You always hop in and remind me of my age ;) Levi's definitely...there are lots of people out there that think all jeans are Levi's - I know, not the younger generation (there's that age thing again). Glad you enjoyed. I don't know about the 'fine oiled machine' part but my brain is always ticking, probably more like a time bomb!


Sandy Frost profile image

Sandy Frost 4 years ago from India

Yes Tills and it can also be observed that infringement of trademarks usually takes place at high level in rural areas or less-developed areas due to lack of proper information and updates there. As per less-awareness in rural areas, local corporates get benefitted by counterfeiting the products and services offered by an already established brand and cheat the customers after selling them some of their cheap offerings, wrapped in attractive packages, on competitive prices as they do this by taking advantages of admired brand images of those popular brands.

As well, they break all the legalities by either carbon-copying of trademarks and logos or by distorting them a little so that customer's minds don't fluctuate about their fake offerings.

Well, heartful thanks for this informative hub.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 4 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

OMG.....you crack me up! ....a "time bomb!"...lmao. That's perfect!!


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

I know Sandy, the world is full of cheats that know how to get around legalities and its usually the consumer who suffers! You are most welcome for my hub.

Effer what else did you expect from me?


diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hi Tilly. Excellent and well researched article. Very interesting subject which i knew little about except for the fact so many have become household words. In some cases they seem to be good for the company, in others, less. Kodak was another such and went out of business. I haven't heard from "Bic," (ball points) for a while, as you say, the list goes on.

It might be interesting to do a hub on these products and how many are still around.

Bob


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Thanks Bob. I read a short article in a local newspaper and thought it would be a good thing to do a hub about. You're right, I totally forgot about Bic...they are still around but you don't hear about them anymore. Glad you enjoyed!


BlossomSB profile image

BlossomSB 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

What a great idea for a hub! When I was a child our Mother tried to get us to use the name of the thing rather than the trade-name, but that's impossible for some products these days.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

Bless your mother, she was ahead of her times. Thanks for reading.


iamaudraleigh 4 years ago

I use the word Kleenex like water! I never thought of the legality if I used the word!

Interesting and valuable hub to have saved when writing.

Voted up!


Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 4 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Very interesting article about how trademark names became common names over time. I had no idea yo-yo fell into that category! Not only did similar toys take on the name, but the name then got applied to dieting (yo-yo dieting) and to describing certain personality traits or behaviors (What a yo-yo he is!). There are probably more just for yo-yo alone. Up, interesting, and useful.


tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York Author

You know Audra, I'm sure there's more than what I've pointed out here!

Sally you make a very good point. That would've been a great addition to my hub.

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