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January 01, 2011

When popularity becomes a curse ( Generic Products) - Part - I

1.      Hello, I want to use a band-aid. Does anyone have it?
2.      Where is the nearest Xerox centre?

Colloquial speech is a powerful force, especially when it comes to brand names. In both cases above, a registered trademark is being invoked, but most consumers aren't aware of it. "Band-Aid" is a registered trademark of Johnson & Johnson, and Xerox is a trademarked name created of Xerox Corporation. Consider the following wrong usage of words. We frequently use the brand names when we are actually asking for the generic  products. 
  1. Aspirin (headache tablet) originally a trademark of Bayer AG  
  2. Butterscotch (ice-cream flavor) originally a trademark of Parkinson   
  3. Escalator (lift) originally a trademark of Otis Elevator Company   
  4. Heroin (drug) originally a trademark of Bayer AG   
  5. Kerosene (a petrol product) originally a trademark of Abraham Gesner   
  6.  Sellotape (sticky adhesive) a brand name of The Sellotape Company
  7. Thermos ( a flask) originally a trademark of Thermos GmbH
  8. Zipper (a trousers fastener) originally a trademark of B.F.Goodrich 
  9. Xerox (photocopy) is a trade mark of Rank Xerox
  10. Nylon ( a artificial cloth) is a trade mark of Dupont company  
  11. Band-aid ( a healthy adhesive tape) is a trade mark of Johnson and Johnson
  12. Dalda (Vanaspati) is a trade mark of HUL limited
  13. Dettol (a bath soap)  is a trade mark of Reckitt Benckiser in India
  14. Walkman ( portable music system) is a trade mark of Sony Corporation
Generic Products: A trademark is said to be genericized when it began as distinctive but has changed in meaning to become generic. A trademark typically becomes "genericized" when the products or services with which it is associated have acquired substantial market dominance or mind share such that the primary meaning of the genericized trademark becomes the product or service itself rather than an indication of source for the product or service to such an extent that the public thinks the trademark is the generic name of the product or service. Unless the owner of an affected trademark works sufficiently to correct and prevent such broad use its intellectual property rights in the trademark may be lost and competitors enabled to use the genericized trademark to describe their similar products.

So what is going on?

If you ask a lawyer, he will say these are genericized trademarks. If you talk to a linguist, he might explain "metonymy": when a part is used to refer to the whole. "Band-Aid" (the brand) is just one example of an adhesive bandage. The Band-Aid was invented in 1921 by a Johnson & Johnson employee and gained popularity over subsequent decades, making it a household name. Eventually "Band-Aid" came to mean any adhesive bandage, and the trademarked name was genericized. 

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