Avoiding Genericide With Your Brand: 5 Worthy Ways to Defend Your Trademark

wine bottle

Have you tried the BBQ friendly wine with no name? Or is it The BBQ Friendly Wine With No Name? See the problem? I don’t know if it’s even a brand name!

The wine owners probably thought they were ever so clever, but it’s tough to defend a descriptive name against encroachment let alone get a trademark. Your intellectual property isn’t worth much if it’s confused with a generic product. Of course, genericide has plagued many companies including Bayer (for aspirin), Dow Chemical (for cellophane), and Otis Elevator (for escalator).

5 Worthy Ways to Defend Your Mark:

In order to prevent your name turning generic, follow these worthy steps:

  1. Create a Red Hot Brand Name – Avoiding issues in the first place is the best defense. My company creates many brand names; a description of our services is here.
  2. Stop Using Your Brand Name As A Verb – I’ve admonished Chase before for its slogan of “Chase What Matters” or DIRECTV for “don’t just watch TV, Direct TV.” If you don’t respect your brand name, it’s assumed others won’t respect it either.
  3. Rigorously Defend Your Mark – There’s a reason Xerox, Kleenex, Jacuzzi, Q-Tips, and Rollerblade rigorously defend their marks and you should too!
  4. Put Others On Notice – If you have a registered trademark for your brand name, use the designation. My corporation, The Nuancing® Group is a registered trademark and always appears that way. The registration alerts others that it’s mine!
  5. Monitor Your Mark – If you think someone’s using a variation of your mark, connect with your intellectual property attorney for next steps.

What are you issues with your brand name? What other brand names do you love or hate? Share in the comments below.

I am NOT an attorney and the above blog was for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Please contact your attorney for specialized and individualized legal guidance.

4 Comments
  1. Hmmm……. ”Don’t use your brand name as a verb?” I like the other points, but not sure I agree on this one.

    What killed the popularity of the search engines Yahoo, Ask.com and Altavista? It wasn’t bad search results. It was the meteoric rise of the phrase “Google it!”

    Thirty years later, I remember: “Want a tough stain out? ‘Shout’ it out!”

    Seems like getting your name associated with a positive action would be an amazing feat of marketing.

    I’m curious what your logic is; you say not to do it and give two examples of companies that do, but you didn’t mention WHY you think it’s bad.

  2. When you use your name as a verb as in just Google it, you devalue the mark; courts have ruled that after prolonged use and lack of defending the use that way, you lose the rights to your mark! Bayer lost the rights to aspirin in this manner.

    In essence, this process is called genericide. As a result, Kleenex and Xerox, for example, rigorously defend their mark to avoid it becoming the generic for facial tissue or a copy.

    So, you never want to encourage anyone to just ImproVenture it; the minute you do it, the courts assume everyone else can do it too.

  3. Hi Liz,

    I never got Chase’s slogan, “Chase because you can.” Chase what???

    Finally, someone from Chase said, Chase anything you want . . dreams, goals, etc. Am I the only one who didn’t get it?

    Regards,
    Rick

  4. Yes, Chase abandoned “chase what matters” and replaced it with the horrible “because you can.” To me it still fails because it uses a brand name as a verb which is a big no-no per trademark law.

    Most importantly, I’m with you Rick, but that it doesn’t even make sense!If you substitute any other brand, you get the same response: Jack in the Box: because you can.

    This tagline is in the red.

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