In an effort to save their brand from genericism, the team at Velcro recently launched a witty campaign urging people not to use the Velcro trademark as a noun or a verb. To view the video click here.
A term becomes generic where it becomes the commonly used term for a good or service, for example, escalator (formerly known as moving staircase), thermos (formerly known as vacuum flask). The role of a trademark is to identify and distinguish the goods of one manufacturer or seller from those of another. Therefore, it follows that under U.S. trademark law generic terms cannot be registered because the public would not readily associate a generic term with one particular brand.
When a mark becomes generic it ceases to function as a trademark and thereby becomes vulnerable to challenge. A successful challenge based on genericism typically results in the cancellation of the registered mark. Thus, if the term “Velcro” becomes synonymous with ‘hook and loop fastener,’ it will weaken the Velcro brand and could result in the loss of their trademark.
Recently, Google has been dealing with this same issue. In 2012, Google successfully won a domain name dispute against, David Elliot, an individual who purchased over 700 domain names with the word “Google” in them. After the suit, Elliot sought to cancel Google’s trademarks claiming that they have become generic terms for searching the web. While Elliot has been unsuccessful thus far, the case is still ongoing.
Contact us to learn more about genericism and how to protect against it.