Worldwide brand success and recognition are what every business owner dreams of, but it can be a double-edged sword when it comes to protecting your trademarks. When a trademark becomes “generic” it may not be able to keep its registration. Understanding how this happens, whether it helps or not, and how you can protect your trademark are essential parts of protecting your business for the long run. A qualified trademark attorney from Quest can help with this process.
Before you understand genericide, it helps to know what a trademark is. Simply put, a trademark is a term, phrase, or made-up word that a company uses to identify a brand, product, or service. Although some trademark rights begin automatically once you start your business, the federal trademark registration process offers significantly more protection.
When a brand name becomes so well-known, consumers may use it to describe more than one specific product. This is trademark genericide: the act of making a trademark generic.
The last time you performed research on the Internet, did you say you “Googled” the topic? Did you blow your nose with a Kleenex? Do your kid’s sneakers have Velcro instead of shoelaces?
These brands – Google, Kleenex, and Velcro – are currently experiencing genericide. Velcro has even made a humorous trademark genericide video to explain the concept and encourage consumers to use the term “hook and loop” when describing similar products that are not made by Velcro.
Other top brands that have experienced this include Escalator, Popsicle, Aspirin, and Coke. These brands are becoming such a normal part of our vocabulary, that they may lose their trademark protections in the future.
At this point, it would be very difficult for any of these companies to stop everyone from using their brand names as general terms. So how do you prevent this from happening? The first step is to register your trademark with the USPTO. This can even be done before your business opens. It is important to register your trademark as soon as possible. After your trademark is registered, you should always monitor your mark for any potential infringement activity. This is called “policing your mark.” Taking action against infringers immediately will help your mark keep its strength in the marketplace.
In most cases, hiring a trademark attorney to help is a matter of protecting your business from competitors and not consumers. But with trademark genericide, it’s the consumers that may cause a brand to become generic. If too many people use your brand name referring to other products, it may weaken your customers’ bond to your company because it no longer holds the same quality association. For example, if someone needs hook and loop closure but calls it Velcro, and buys another brand of lower quality, they will associate this lower quality with your brand.
However, trademark registration provides significant legal protection for businesses of all sizes who want to retain control over their brand or product name. The last thing you want is for other companies to use your brand name for their own products or services. Trademark laws, federal registration, and taking proactive steps to protect your trademark help you maintain control and the ability to use your name in a way most effective for your success and growth.
For help with trademark registration and other intellectual property or business law matters, contact the attorneys at Quest Business & Intellectual Property Law. Our team is made up of attorneys and law clerks who specialize in trademark registration, trademark consultations, and other areas of trademark law. Contact us today to see how we can help you protect your brand.