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Surprise! That term is trademarked

Here's a piece of intellectual property trivia for Sacramento business owners: When it comes to trademarked terms, you own that trademark for as long as you use it. If you are lax, however, and do not at least attempt to put a stop to use of your trademarked term by other parties, then you may eventually wind up forfeiting control over your trademark.

Loss of a trademarked term is called "genericide" -- the transition of a once specific, trademarked phrase into a common, everyday term.

Here are a few terms that you probably did not realize are actually trademarked. As you can imagine, the owners of these trademarks have an uphill battle to fight against genericide:

  • Jell-O: If it isn't made by Kraft Foods, then it should be called a "gelatin dessert."
  • Kleenex: Kimberly-Clark would kindly request that you refer to all other brands as "facial tissue."
  • Chapstick: It's "lip balm" unless it's made by Pfizer.
  • PowerPoint: Not all "presentation graphics programs" are Microsoft's PowerPoint.
  • Wite-Out: Not all "correction fluids" are Wite-Out, which is Bic's brand.

In the case of the terms used above, they are almost a victim of their own popularity. In each case, the trademarked brand was so successful it came to define the category. That is great for sales, of course, but smart companies will work very hard to make sure they do not wind up forfeiting their trademark protections due to genericide.

Source: The Week, "24 words you might not know are trademarked," Jan. 7, 2013

  • In our Sacramento law office, we assist clients who are interested in securing intellectual property protections, such as Trademarks.

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