Language is a powerful force. It has defined cultures, accorded identity to civilizations, encouraged study and has both united and divided the world’s populace. However it has also had influences beyond the apparent; language, interestingly, shares a close relationship with brands with the former commanding a ubiquitous influence over the latter. Its cause and effect relationship with brands has, on one hand, set many a brand to total market domination while on the other, caused as many of them to lose identity and perish. One such influencing factor is ‘genericising’ of a brand.
A Brand, being a word, may become a part of colloquial language. Owing to its long standing association with the goods or services it represents, a brand often becomes synonymous with such goods or services. The word gradually enters normal parlance and over time comes to be accepted as a part of the language itself.
*Following is a list of formerly registered Trademarks that have lost their legal protection because of becoming synonymous with the products/services they once represented –
Still a Bayer trademark name for acetylsalicylic acid in about 80 countries, including Canada and many countries in Europe, but declared generic in the U.S.
Originally a trademark for a specific type of retro reflective road safety installation.
Still a registered trademark of Innovia Films Ltd in Europe and many other jurisdictions. Originally a trademark of DuPont.
Trademarked by the Dry Ice Corporation of America in 1925.
Originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company.
Trademarked by Friedrich Bayer & Co in 1898.
First used around 1852.
Trademarked as the term for a preparation of water and the wax from sheep’s wool.
Coin laundry shop. Westinghouse trademark, registered in the US in the 1940’s (automatic washing machine) and 1950’s (coin laundry) but now expired.
Floor covering, originally coined by Frederick Walton in 1864, and ruled as generic following a lawsuit for trademark infringement in 1878; probably the first product name to become a generic term.
Originally trademarked by Albert Dick.
Carless, Capel and Leonard invented the trade name “Petrol” for refined petroleum spirit.
The name of a sound recording and playing device manufactured by Thomas Edison.
A psychotherapy. Registered by Arthur Janov in 1970. Cancelled in 1978.
A brand created by the Latvian manufacturer VEF, but widely used in Russian to refer to all transistor radios.
Originally a Thermos GmbHtrademark name for a vacuum flask; declared generic in the U.S. in 1963.
Dual tone multi-frequency telephone signaling; AT&T states “formerly a trademark of AT&T”.
Originally trademarked by Ampex Corporation,an early manufacturer of audio and video tape recorders.
The publishers with the strongest link to the original are Merriam-Webster, but they have a trademark only on “Merriam-Webster”, and other dictionaries are legally published as “Webster’s Dictionary”.
Still a Papa’s Toy Co. Ltd. trademark name for a spinning toy in Canada, but declared generic in the U.S. in 1965.
Originally registered as a service mark but has since expired.
Originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich.
*Now, the following list contains some Trademarks that are still legally registered yet, are used frequently as generic words-
Trade Mark owned by Parle
Trade Mark owned by Coca-Cola Company
Trade Mark owned by The Kraft Group
Trade Mark owned by Dolby Laboratories
Trade Mark owned by Wham-O
Trade Mark owned by Google Inc.
Trade Mark owned by Apple Inc.
Trade Mark owned by Adobe Systems
Trade Mark owned by 3M Company
Trade Mark owned by Sony Corporation
Recently, in the matter of Mr. B. V. Ilango V/s Rank Xerox Ltd. & Ors., (hereafter being referred to as Applicant and Respondent, respectively) the Intellectual Property Appellate Board (IPAB) held that ‘Xerox’ Trademark was not a generic mark and therefore refused to disqualify it from trademark protection. The IPAB dismissed the Applicant’s rectification application to remove the ‘Xerox’ trademark, in its decision dated September 21, 2012.
Both parties filed a considerable amount of evidence in the form of judgments, circulars, newspaper ads etc. in support of their respective contentions but a perusal of the IPAB’s decision will show that, even though it acknowledges the volume of evidence from both sides, it felt that the public knew that the owner of the Trademark was the Respondent and that the Respondent had acted just in time to save the life of the Trademark in light of the loose manner in which people were using the Trade mark.
Since the subject of this article is ‘genericising’ of Trademarks in general we are not exploring the nitty-gritties of the decision of the IPAB. The same is for your record and basic understanding of the concept.