sound image word slogan name logotype symbol Trademark is a distinctive sign that identifies certain goods ordesign services as those produced or provided by a specific person or brand enterprise, and separates them from other goods or services. phrase The words served around this text can all be considered as potential trademarks. color
...as soon as trademarks are launched on the market, they areprovided with legal rights.One of those rights is called trademark dilution – a trademarklaw concept giving the owner of a famous trademark standing toforbid others from using that mark in a way that would lessen itsuniqueness (e.g. many “variations” of Coca Cola).These rights must be proactively protected and renewed duringyears (depending on the country laws).
What’s the average age ofa 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.
The unfamous trademarkgenerificationTrademark generification, also known as a trademark erosion, isa process by which trademark rights are diminished or lost as aresult of common use in the marketplace. The trademark namebecomes so common that it starts being used as a commonname and the company fails in preventing its (mis)use.
Why is it so bad?When your trademark becomes genericised you, the owner,lose every right on it:– you can no longer register and protect that name– everyone can use your trademark– the ability to control qulity of the new products that appear under the name is lost– you can not extend your business and develope some new products under that name because now it becomes associated with one product only– competition can also use your trademark - on their behalf or negative advertising
How does it happen?It is said that every trademark is balancing somewhere betweendistinctive and generic. But all trademarks can be classified by oneof these groups:Arbitrary: meaning not related to the nature of the product/serviceFanciful: original and having little if any reference to the nature of the product/serviceSuggestive: having primarily trademark significance but with suggestion as to nature of productDescriptive: not just suggesting, but actually describing the product or service, yet still understood as indicating sourceMerely 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 distinctivebut has changed in meaning to become generic.
Even though some trademarks have predispositions to becomegenericised, in general this can happen due to several reasons:1. Patent generificationWhen patented, the invention becomes widely known under that specificname, and since it’s the only product of that kind in the market (patent laws),people start to associate the name with the product. When the patent rightsexpire, new similar products arrive, but people still remember the originalpatent name and use it as a generic name.2. Bad marketingCompetition can erode the original trademark through some negativemarketing, specifically advertising.3. Generification due to uncontrollable usage of the nameBy overusing the trademark name in inappropriate ways, we dilute thetrademark rights. Examples are words like “google”, “roller-blading” etc.4. Generification as a result of the market dominanceWhen trademark acquires certain popularity it might become dominant onthe market for that certain niche and therefore people might associate it witha certain product.
In the USA there is a Primary Trademark Meaning test invented byjudge named Learned Hand. Test was made to explore and definethe relationship between the primary trademark meaning and thepublic opinion.While the trademark name is publicy and exclusively associatedwith the product or the products owner, the trademark rights aresafe. If the trademark is not associated with a certain product northe owner of the brand, the trademark owner loses his/hers rights.This happened to Bayer AG with Aspirin in USA. Aspirin is now agenericised trademark.
Situation in Europe is a bit different. While in USA the loss oftrademark rights in irreversible, in Europe the owner might gethis rights back if the trademark once again becomes associatedwith the product or the owner (through advertising).Since 2003 Protected Designation of Origin exists in EU and itrestricts the use of region names as trademarks for specialtyfood and drink to manufactures from the region. Examples areproducts like Parmesan, Roquefort, Feta cheese, Scotch whisky...
How can you saveyour trademark frombecoming generic?For starters you can learn from others.
1. Educate your business partners and clients about your trademark rights and a propper usage.Learn from LEGO. In the early 70s and 80s they asked their buyers touse expressions like LEGO blocks and LEGO toys instead of LEGOS. Theword LEGOS represented a huge problem in USA where it is common toadd the letter “s” to pretty much everything. To fight that, the companybought the www.legos.com domain that warns you about being on thewrong site and then redirects..
2. Avoid using trademark name in a generic contextThis happened to Xerox Corporation. Back in the days when theylead the market with their photocopy machines everyone “xeroxed”instead of “photocopied”. Courts were visited, letters were writtenand in the end they did a campaign pleading to people to help themsave their trademark. They actually saved it, although we must saythat the verb “xerox” is still part of the Oxford English dictionary as asynonim for photocopying.
3. Use the word “brand” next to your brand nameThis is quite common with famous brands, good example isJohnson & Johnson who even changed their campaign lyrics from“I am stuck on BAND-AIDs, ‘cause BAND-AID’s stuck on me” into “Iam stuck on BAND-AID brand, ‘cause BAND-AID’s stuck on me.”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gVtmVlV7YEw&feature=related
4. Use a generic descriptor with your brand nameMany companies used this to protect their trademarks. One ofthem is Kleenex who incorporated “tissues” to their brand name.
5. Invent a new generic name for your productRemember when everyone was rollerblading? Well, not anymore.Rollerblade Company invented the “in-line skating” term whicheveryone more or less accepted. Same thing happened toNintendo who stopped their trademark generic use by introducingthe term “game console”.
...Pharmacy industry has its own way of protecting their trademarks.They produce generic names that are based on chemical ingredientsand in that way save their brand names.
As one of the oldest and todays most powerful brand,Coca-Cola has an interesting history in protecting its trademark.Back in the days they had a problem with the competition thatimitated their recipe.They did series of camqapaigns with slogans like:Call it by full name. Nicknames encourage substitution.Demand the genuine by full name.Coca-Cola. It’s the real thing.
In 1886 Coca-cola drink got registered as a trademark.In 1893 The Coca-Cola logo got registered as a trademark and hassince become the brand’s corporate identity.In 1935 the name “Coke” was registered as a trademarkIn 1977 the now-familiar contour bottle shape was grantedregistration as a trademarkhttp://www.thecoca-colacompany/heritage/pdf/cokelore/Heritage_CokeLore_trademarkchronology.pdf
Today Coca-Cola has such a strong trademark that it wentbeyond becoming generic, and perhaps beyond being toopopular. When they first introduced the word “Coke” itcould be used as a substitute for Coca-Cola. Then they usedthe generic name and used it as a brand in 1985. with agiant campaign screaming “Coke is it”, while introducing“cola drink” as a generic name.The new coke wasn’t that successful, but still remained onthe market as a Diet Coke. It is quite nice when you canplay with your own trademark without any severe damage.
Google was one of the first in recent history that reallygot the public attention when the company’s lawyers sentout warning letters and emails to those who publicly usedthe word “google” as a synonim for “search”. Everyonewas stunned by this harsh reaction from such a liberalcompany, but the Google kept on fighting for its name.
Battle was however lead in a specific Google manner. Asexamples of appropriate and inappropriate brand nameusage you could find some interesting sentences like:Appropriate: He ego-surfs on the Google search engine to see if he’s listed in the results.Inappropriate: He googles himself.Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party.Inappropriate: I googled that hottie.
In 2006 the saga continued when the verb “google” wasincluded into editions of Merriam-Webster and OxfordEnglish Dictionary. Good thing is that verb doesn’t standfor search but “to use the Google search engine to findinformation about (as a person) on the World Wide Web”.Because of that, this interesting information about “google”- word from a dictionary can now be found on Googlesofficial site.
Just a shortlist of generic& potentionally generictrademarks.Look for the bold ones.
Aspirin Ajax Hi-lighter (Hi-Liter) Ouija SPAMBrassiere Alka Seltzer Hoover Oreo SpeedoCellophane Aqua-Lung Hula Hoop Pablum StetsonCelluloid Baggies Jacuzzi Perspex StyrofoamCorselet (Corselette) Band Aid Jaws of Life PG SuperglueEscalator Benzedrine JCB Photoshop TabascoGranola Breathalyzer Jeep Ping-Pong TaserHeroin Brillo Pad Jet Ski Playbill TelePrompTerLinoleum Bubble Wrap Jetway Plexiglas TeflonPetrol Chap Stick Cheetos Jell-O Portacabin ThermosThermos Cheerios Jockey Shorts Post-It TippexYo-Yo Coke Kleenex Polaroid TiVoZIP-code Cool-Aid (Kool-Aid) Krazy Glue Popsicle TupperwareZipper Demerol Laundromat Prozac Tylenol Dictaphone LEGO Q-tips UGG Digitron Levi’s Rollerblade Valium Dixie cups Liquid Paper Roquefort Vaseline Dumpster Life Savers Saran or Saranwrap VHS Ethernet Magic Marker Scotch tape Viagra Fiberglass Milk-Bone Scrabble Walkman Freon Moxie Sellotape Windbreaker Frisbee Muzak Sharpie Windex Gilette Nikko pen Shop-Vac Wite-Out Google Nilla Wafers Skivvies Xerox GoKart Novocain Spackle ...*only the bold words are genericised trademarks (USA mostly), the rest of the words are used generically but haven’t lost their rights
As time passes by, nothing really changed in the world ofbrands. Secured trademark rights are still on top of their ownerswishlists, and keeping their trademarks safe was never harder.Today in the Internet Age, as information becomes moredecentralized, possible communication sources that can leadto brand erosion expand exponentially. Therefore the need toproactively protect your trademark is bigger than ever.
Trademarks are improtant, whether you own or plan to ownthem. It is important to be aware of their misusage because itmight cause a lot of problems. Perhaps next time you will thinktwice before you say googling, skyping or tweeting.Or maybe, you will say it, but in a propper way.
In the end, a few tips for future trademark owners:1. You should never use a verb or a noun as yourtrademark name. Same goes with plural and possesivenouns and pronouns, while they might evoke thegenerification of the name.2. If you own a patent, it is important that beside thetrademark name you also include a generative descriptoror perhaps invent a new word for the patent.
If still not decided how to name your new brand,we’ll be glad to help.Or you can just drop us a line - we are allwaysinterested in meeting new people.THE & END :)