What are some examples of trademarks that have become generic in the United States?

What are some examples of trademarks that have become generic in the United States?

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol, or design that identifies the source of the goods of one company from the goods of another company. Some examples include: brand names, slogans, and logos. A trademark can last forever as long as a company continues to use the mark in commerce to indicate the source of goods and services. Registration of a trademark with the United States Patent and Trademark Office will give the owner of a trademark additional rights to protect the trademark from infringement but the use of the trademark in commerce establishes a company’s claim to a trademark.

An issue that a trademark owner must be aware of is that uncontrolled use of a trademark can cause the trademark to lose protection completely. When uncontrolled use of the trademark causes the general public to no longer associate the trademark with the source of the goods, the trademark is considered generic. The ways that a trademark can become generic are reviewed in detail in a prior blog post you can access here:

Despite trademark owner’s best efforts sometimes the popularity of their products because their trademark to become generic. Here are some examples of famous trademarks that have become generic in the United States.

Linoleum – A trademark first used in 1864. The mark was used to describe various different durable floor coverings and was ruled generic in 1878 when the trademark owner tried to sue a competitor for trademark infringement.

Flip phone – A trademark registered in 1998 by Motorola which was canceled in 2005. The mark became synonymous with a style of cellular phone rather than goods produced by Motorola.

Kerosene – A trademark registered in 1854 but some time after that date the mark became a generic term for a specific type of liquid fuel.

Thermos – A trademark first used in 1904 but as of 1963 anyone producing an insulated container can use the term.

Dry Ice – A trademark registered in 1925 by the DryIce Corporation and the trademark was lost in 1932. The term dry ice is associated with any solid CO2.

Laundromat – A trademark from the 1940s that is no longer registered. The term is now used to describe any business that operates public washing machines.

Escalator – A trademark from the 1900s owned by Otis Elevator. The United States Patent and Trademark Office canceled the registration for the trademark because even Otis Elevator was using the term to generically describe moving stair machines.

App Store – A trademark which is still technically registered to Apple. Apple sued Amazon in 2011 claiming consumers could be confused by its “Appstore for Amazon” but then Apple abandoned the trademark and the lawsuit in 2013 when the court denied a request for an injunction preventing Amazon from using the trademark.

Trademark owners must be aware that even after they successfully register a trademark, they must be vigilant in protecting the trademark or else it can become generic. If you have more questions about developing a trademark of how to prevent a trademark you own from becoming generic it is best to consult with an experienced trademark attorney to review all the facts.