Genericized trademarks are trademarks used to mean more than the original product.
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2 Former trademarks now used generically
3 Current trademarks that are often used generically
4 See also
5 External links
Trademarks, unlike other forms of intellectual property such as copyrights and patents, must be actively used and defended. A copyright or patent holder may simply "sit on" his creation and prevent its use, but a trademark owner claiming and even registering a trademark that fails to make active use of it, or fails to defend it against infringement may lose the exclusive right to use it. Further, if a court rules that a formerly trademarked term has become so successful in gaining mind share and becomes "generic" through common use (and so the average consumer doesn't realize it is a trademark), it may also be ruled invalid. A trademark may also become generic if the owner of the trademark registration fails to comply with the registration requirements.
The genericization of a trademark sometimes results because the trademark is the name of something protected by other intellectual property rights, especially patents. Since the patent gives an inventor the exclusive right to manufacture a product for a period of time, consumers will only know that product by the inventor's trademark for the duration of the patent. When the patent expires, the inventor's competitors begin producing their own versions, but using the inventor's trademark to name their product because this is the name by which the general public identifies such items. (This is also the rationale for not protecting a generic trademark, because that would effectively allow the inventor to extend patent protection indefinitely.) One patent that lost its trademark status in this way is Thomas Edison's mimeograph.
Trademark owners should never use the trademark as a verb or noun, implying the word is generic. Likewise, using the trademark as a plural or possessive (i.e. a noun) will imply the trademark is generic. If the trademark is associated with a patent, the patent holder may need to emphasize a descriptive term for the product that is distinguished from the trademark as a brand name.
Trademark owners whose trademark is commonly used by consumers may have to take special proactive measures. Xerox took out ads advising consumers to "photocopy" instead of "Xeroxing" documents. In a less drastic but more common practice, many owners follow their trademark with the word "brand" to help define the word as a trademark. Johnson & Johnson changed the lyrics of their BAND-AID television commercial jingle from, "I am stuck on BAND-AIDs, 'cause BAND-AID's stuck on me" to "I am stuck on BAND-AID brand, 'cause BAND-AID's stuck on me."
The concept of genericized trademarks is parodied in the 1993 film Demolition Man where Taco Bell is used as the generic word for "restaurant"; even fine dining establishments.
In 2003 the European Union is seeking to restrict the use of region names as trademarks for speciality food and drink to manufacturers from the region. Extending these restrictions outside Europe is controversial because regional names that are trademarks within Europe are often considered generic in other countries. It is made even more difficult where regional names have been trademarked outside Europe, such as Parma ham, which is trademarked in Canada by a Canadian manufacturer, preventing the manufacturers from Parma from using their own name. Products affected include Champagne, Bordeaux and many other wine names, Roquefort, Parmesan and Feta cheese, Scotch whisky and Parma ham. In the 1990s the Parma consortium successfully sued the Asda supermarket chain to prevent it using the trademark Parma on ham not produced and packed in Parma. See Protected Designation of Origin.
Former trademarks now used generically
Current trademarks that are often used generically
(This is necessarily a "subjective" list.)