All brand owners strive for their trade mark to be instantly
recognisable to consumers' eyes and ears. However, where
a brand is so successful in its product field, there is a danger
that the trade mark could be challenged on the basis that it has
become "generic". In other words, it has become the
common name for that type of product or service, regardless of who
makes or provides it.
Examples of trade marks that have become synonymous with all
products in their field, regardless of the manufacturer, are
"ESCALATOR", "HOOVER" and "LINOLEUM".
Modern examples of marks that are at risk of becoming generic
include "iPOD", "GOOGLE" and
Here's some top tips to stop your brand losing its
be proactive: monitor use of your trade mark in the media,
trade catalogues and directories and on the internet. When it
is misused, send a letter of complaint and keep records of all such
complaints and responses;
use the symbols " for unregistered trade marks and ®
for registered trade marks. Proprietors and third parties are not
legally required to use these symbols; however both symbols act as
notice to third parties of your rights;
only use your trade marks as an adjective (for example, "a
LEGO toy"), and never as a noun or verb (for example, "a
PERRIER" or "TO GOOGLE") and ensure your licensees
and distributors do the same; and
ensure that licensees use statements such as "TRADE MARK
® is used under licence of [INSERT], the registered
Vigilant trade mark proprietors can often prevent their trade
mark from losing its identity. Success stories include
"PORTAKABIN", "TANNOY" and
"ASTROTURF" which are all terms often used in a generic
way, but which have successfully retained their trade mark
If you think your trade mark is being used inappropriately, seek
independent legal advice.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
Specific Questions relating to this article should be addressed directly to the author.
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