What is Genericide?

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Allison Harrison

The Lanham Act, the statute that governs trademarks in the United States, states that a person may seek to cancel a trademark registration “if the registered mark becomes the generic name for the goods or services, or a portion thereof, for which it is registered.” 15 U.S.C. § 1064(3).

As discussed in the Distinctiveness Spectrum article, Bayer used to have a trademark for Aspirin in the United States, but after people considered aspirin a generic term for pain killers, Aspirin lost its trademark status and became generic. This process is called genericide. Your trusted trademark attorney in Columbus will share insights about this process in today’s article. Do you have questions or need legal assistance with obtaining a trademark? Contact Allison L. Harrison Law, LLC, your experts in trademark law.

Understanding Genericide

Some of the products we use every day were once trademarked, but have now become generic descriptors of the goods or services. For example, Zipper was a registered trademark. Now, we refer to any fastening device with teeth on clothing as a zipper without regard to the manufacturer. Escalator also used to be a registered trademark. Now, any moving staircase is called an escalator regardless of whether it is made by Otis Escalator Company.  

Isn’t it the goal of companies to be so well-known that everybody is calling products by their name? Not necessarily. Companies may want their products to be so well-known, but they don’t want other companies swooping into the marketplace and selling inferior products using their good name.

Genericide In Everyday Products

Some companies will spend advertising dollars to make sure their trademarks do not succumb to genericide. Band-Aid® added the word “brand” to the jingle, “I am stuck on Band-Aid® Brand ‘cause a Band-Aid®’s stuck on me!” in an attempt to stop people from referring to any bandage as a band-aid. Xerox® publishes ads asking consumers to “photocopy” documents instead of “xerox” them. Recently, Velcro® released a video imploring consumers to call non-Velcro® brand fasteners “hook and loop.”

Google® recently won a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs seeking cancellation of the trademark as generic. Think about the way you use “google.” Do you use it as a verb for all Internet searches? Or do you only say “google” when you use Google®? Word usage matters to protect valuable trademarks and prevent genericide.

Contact Your Columbus Trademark Attorney

If you have questions about genericide, trademarking, or need legal assistance with the trademark registration process, please contact Allison L. Harrison Law, LLC, to schedule a consultation with your Top Rated Local® intellectual property lawyer in Columbus.


Please note that the information contained in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and not as specific legal advice. The facts of your situation may differ from this general information. It is not intended to and does not in any way establish an attorney-client relationship.

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