Trademarks have always been the core of the business of any company as they are considered a valuable asset. They provide a way of communication from the brand owner to the consumers who are influenced by the reputation of a brand, for both products and services.

But what if the consumers cannot recognize the mark as distinguishing the goods or services of a brand from those of its competitors?

There is no doubt that registering a trademark will grant protection, yet, brand owners should be careful in using their trademarks as a way of defining their product. Once a trademark becomes a name that distinguishes a product or service, it becomes a Generic Mark wherein distinctiveness will not exist anymore and it may be subject to cancellation at any time.

A trademark becomes a Generic Mark when it serves as a description of a product or service instead of being used as a distinctive brand. This happens when the public of a particular country uses the trademark as the name of the product or service without recognizing its source.

It is worth mentioning here that the trademark could be subject to cancellation if it becomes Generic. If a trademark becomes generic, it does not necessarily mean that it will be cancelled in all the countries as it could become generic in one country but not in another. For instance, "Aspirin" has become a generic mark in the United States while it is still used as a trademark in many other countries. Other examples of trademarks which have become generic marks are Cellophane, Escalator and Thermos.

Brand owners must be careful when using their trademarks to prevent it from being generic. It is highly advised not to use the trademark as the name of the product in advertisements, even in internal communication, avoid using the trademark as a verb and identify the trademark by using the actual term for the product or service following the trademark itself.

Originally published 31-10-2017

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.