Schedule a Free Strategy Call Contact Us


Can you Lose your Trademark Rights if the Mark Becomes Generic?

Posted by Wes Schwie | Aug 25, 2021 | 0 Comments

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.

How We Can Help

Gallium Law has significant trademarkexperience. We would be happy to assist you in strengthening your brand  and increasing the value of your business. Please call us at 651-256-9480 or fill out this Contact Form to speak with us before it's too late.

*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.”

About the Author

Wes Schwie

Wesley Schwie is the founding Principal of Gallium Law and a registered U.S. patent attorney. Wes' practice encompasses all aspects of intellectual property law, including patent and trademark prosecution, licensing, litigation, portfolio management, due diligence, and infringement and validity counseling...


There are no comments for this post. Be the first and Add your Comment below.

Leave a Comment

Get Started Today

No matter where you are in your process, we'll help you understand the role of IP in your business. After all, tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.

Contact Us

Office Location

By appointment only, telephone and virtual meetings available.
445 Minnesota Street
Suite 1500
St. Paul, MN 55101