If a trademark becomes generic, the rights may become lost. This begs the question: how can I prevent my trademark from becoming generic?
A trademark becomes generic when the mark is synonymous with the product in the public's mind, to mean the product itself, rather than the owner as a source of that product. Examples of generic marks include "aspirin" for acetylsalicylic acid, "Murphy bed" for beds that fold out from a wall, and "escalator" for a moving staircase.
Consequently, anyone can use generic marks for that particular product or service. However, if someone has obtained, for example, a trademark registration for "aspirin" for a hammer or plumbing services, the owner may, and probably will be able to keep others from using "aspirin" for the same goods and services even though the mark is generic as to acetylsalicylic acid.
These generic mark examples illustrate a cardinal rule of trademark use: always use the mark as an adjective and never as a noun for the good or service.[i] A brand owner should use the trademark (adjective) followed by the good or service (noun) it modifies (e.g., “APPLE computer”). Using the mark as a noun indicates the mark is a good or service rather than the source of the good or service, which is a hallmark of trademark law.
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*The information provided in this article is not legal advice and should not be relied on as such. The content of this article is for informational purposes only and is meant as a starting point in your search for answers to your legal questions.
[i] A more detailed example: a mark should be used in the following manner: “trademark” ”product” as in Rollerblade® inline skates. Rollerblade®, U.S. Trademark Reg. No. 1,326,17,1 is a registered trademark owned by Tecnica Group S.p.A. Corporation. In other words, Tecnica Group manufactures and sells a brand of inline skates under the Rollerblade® trademark. Other companies manufacture inline skates under different brand names and trademarks. Proper trademark usage requires that inline skates not be generically called “rollerblades.”