Being famous is not so bad, especially for trademarks, unless it leads to genericide.

What is genericide?

The better known a trademark is in the market, the broader its protection. But the situation can arise where a trademark becomes so well known as a brand for a product that it becomes the generic name for all such products no matter who produced them. If a brand loses its distinctiveness and becomes a pure generic term, then it also loses trademark protection. Well known examples of this include Gervais, Escalator, Thermos, Zipper and Band-aid. This is what we call the death of a brand or “genericide”.

Avoiding genericide

What can you do to avoid your brand becoming a generic name? Although there is no surefire rule, certain measures can definitely help.

  • Do not forget to register your brand as a trademark in the respective markets in time.
  • Always use a generic term for your product besides your brand.
  • Monitor public, competitor and internal use and react when the brand is used as a generic name.
  • Use the ®-sign to make everyone aware of the fact that this is a registered trademark.
  • Never use the brand as a verb (eg “to xerox” instead of “to copy”).
  • Never use the brand as a noun (“xeroxes” instead of “copies”).
  • Educate the public and members of the trade, e.g. by publishing special advertisements informing about the trademark protection, and correct use of, the brand.
  • Survey (potential) customers to find out whether your brand is still regarded as a protected trademark or whether it has become a generic name.
  • Develop guidelines on how to correctly use the trademark and publish these guidelines internally and for any cooperation partner.
  • Use legal remedies against misuse and generic use of your trademark.  

May your brand be successful, famous and respected, but also well-protected and not generic.