That Yo-Yo is actually a Yo-Yo™ — Generic Trademarks


There is a recent magazine ad by Xerox Corporation showing consumer goods by picture only, and the products were instantly identifiable by their popular names: a thermos, an escalator, a trampoline, and a yo-yo.  Xerox highlighted the fact that these popular names were actually trademarks that became “generic” terms through popular (mis)use.  The result of this genericization is that the manufacturer loses the exclusive rights to the name.  Now, a thermos is any type of vacuum flask, and Otis Elevator Company no longer has the exclusive naming rights to its moving stairs.

The ad is part of Xerox’s public relations effort to avoid the genericization of its trademark.  Xerox is asking the public to use the term “photocopy” instead of “xerox” so that its trademark would not become a generic term.  If it fails, it will no longer have the exclusive right to the term Xerox.

Here are a few other generic trademarks that you may not realize were actually brand names tied to a specific manufacturer:

  •  Aspirin
  • Cellophane
  • Dry Ice
  • Heroin
  • Kerosene
  • Laundromat
  • Zipper

In addition to Xerox, there are other names that are commonly used as generic terms for the type of product, and could be at risk of losing exclusivity.

  •  Adrenaline
  • AstroTurf
  • Band-Aid
  • Bubble Wrap
  • Dumpster
  • Frisbee
  • Hula Hoop
  • Jet Ski
  • Styrofoam
  • Velcro

These names cannot be used by manufacturers other than the trademark holder.  It is something to think about the next time you’re enjoying a Popsicle™ or playing Ping Pong™.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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