What is Trademark Erosion? How does a brand name become genericized?
One fine day, you run out of essentials goods at home and set out to the nearest supermarket to restock it. At the supermarket, you go from isle to isle, collecting the required kinds of stuff. In your pursuit for dettol, you arrive at the “Cleaning Products” isle. You end up being baffled at the choice of cleaning products available. Ultimately, you decide to search the internet for the right one (more commonly known as Google-ing😉). Has this ever happened to you before and wondered why? Well, the answer is yes. Knowingly or unknowingly, we all end up in similar situations with different products. This is called genericide.
A generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a trademark or brand name that, because of its popularity or significance, has become the generic term for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service, usually against the intentions of the trademark’s holder.
In short, genericized products are those which due to their extreme popularity, mistakenly get identified as the brand itself. If you think about it, almost half of the items we use are being referred in a similar way. Be it the cellotape for sticking, the photoshop for editing, powerpoints for presentations, all these terms are products of specific brands that got generalized.
Below are some examples of products that underwent trademark erosion and became a common name among the commoners and companies alike.
- Google: Google Search Engine successfully overshadowed the popularity of other search engines like Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari within a short span of time. Despite its late entry to the market, the popularity of Google skyrocketed in such a way that the new “search” term changed to “google-ing”.
- Xerox: Remember those endless xerox copies you took during your studies? But ever realized that it’s technically a photocopy and not xerox? Notably, the first to manufacture xerographic plain-paper copiers. Founded on April 18, 1906, a century-old presence has impacted the term “photocopy”.
- Band-Aid: Do you know that band-aid is actually a brand of adhesive bandages introduced by Johnson & Johnson in 1920? They even had an interesting tagline for this product. “I am stuck on Band-Aid (brand) ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me!😁”
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- Tupperware: Introduced in 1948 by Earl Tupper, Tupperware is a home product line for preparation, storage, serving products for the kitchen, home, and beauty products. During the 2000s, “Tupperware” popularity resulted in a shift from Stainless Steel lunch boxes to Tupperware lunch boxes.
- JCB: Joseph Cyril Bamford Excavators Ltd. was founded in 1945 by Joseph Cyril Bamford and continues to be owned by the Bamford family. In the UK, India, and Ireland, the word “JCB” is often used colloquially as a generic description for mechanical diggers and excavators and now appears in the Oxford English Dictionary, although it is still held as a trademark.
- Escalator: When the Otis Elevator Company advertised that it offered “the latest in elevators and escalators design,” little did they know that “escalator” would become a generic trademark. This term has undergone genericization heavily such that now we are not sure of another term to describe moving stairs.
Frisbee, Fevicol, Jeep, Photoshop, Thermos, Ping-pong, Maggie, Pampers…the list goes on. We leave the option to you to “google” it for more details if interested.
As a result of heavy marketing, the generalized products lose their trademark, known as Trademark Erosion. This is in fact a proof that marketing in the right ways can patent each product in the user’s mind and not only in papers.
What are the products you think have undergone genericization? Do let us know in the comment section below.
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