question.jpgIn Trademarks

What is genericide?

Genericide is where a trademark which was at one time protectable is no longer entitled to protection under trademark law because it has become a generic term. Generic marks cannot be protected under trademark law because they describe a whole group of goods or services and cannot distinguish one product within the group from another (for example, you could not trademark CARS to be used with the sale of a type of car). Genericide occurs where one’s mark becomes so famous that the public begins to use that mark to generically describe all related goods or services. Famous examples of once-protected but now generic marks include ASPIRIN, ESCALATOR and ZIPPER.

Genericide presents an interesting problem to companies - the more successful a company is, and the better it is able to have its brand recognized, the more risk there is that the company’s trademark could become generic. For example, in recent years, Xerox Corporation has spent a substantial amount of time and money to educate the public that you should use the term XEROX as an identifying mark rather than as a general term (for example, “I am going to copy this paper on a Xerox copier” rather than “I am going to Xerox this”). Even more recently, it has been noted that the TIVO trademark has started down the path to genericide, being generally used to refer to all digital video recorders, as well as being used as a verb to describe recording television. Google is finding similar problems with the GOOGLE mark.