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A generic trademark, also known as a genericized trademark or proprietary eponym, is a
trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-mark) is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also r ...

trademark
or
brand name A brand is a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. Brands are used in business, marketing, and advertising for recognition and, importantly, to cr ...

brand name
that, because of its popularity or significance, has become the
generic term Trademark distinctiveness is an important concept in the law governing trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-markThe styling of ''trademark'' as a single word is predominantly used in the United States and Philippines on ...
for, or synonymous with, a general class of
products Product may refer to: Business * Product (business), an item that serves as a solution to a specific consumer problem. * Product (project management), a deliverable or set of deliverables that contribute to a business solution Mathematics * Produc ...
or
services Service may refer to: Activities :''(See the Religion section for religious activities)'' * Administrative service, a required part of the workload of Faculty (academic staff), university faculty * Civil service, the body of employees of a governm ...
, usually against the intentions of the trademark's owner. A trademark is said to become ''genericized'' when it begins as a distinctive product identifier but changes in meaning to become generic. This typically happens when the products or services which the trademark is associated with have acquired substantial
market dominance Market is a term used to describe concepts such as: *Market (economics) A market is a composition of systems, institutions, procedures, social relations or infrastructures whereby parties engage in Exchange (economics), exchange. While parties m ...
or
mind share Mind share relates to the development of consumer awareness or popularity, and is one of the main objectives of advertising and Promotion (marketing), promotion. When people think of examples of a product type or category, they usually think of a ...
, 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. A trademark thus popularised has its legal protection at risk in some countries such as the United States and United Kingdom, as its
intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also refers to the valuable things themselves. Depending on the nature of the property, an owner o ...
rights in the trademark may be lost and competitors enabled to use the genericized trademark to describe their similar products, unless the owner of an affected trademark works sufficiently to correct and prevent such broad use.


In subpopulations

Genericization or "loss of secondary meaning" may be prevalent among either the general population or just a subpopulation, such as among people who work in a particular industry. Some examples of the latter type from the vocabulary of physicians include the names Luer-Lok (Luer lock),
Phoroptor (phoropter)
Phoroptor (phoropter)
, and Port-a-Cath (portacath), which have genericized
mind share Mind share relates to the development of consumer awareness or popularity, and is one of the main objectives of advertising and Promotion (marketing), promotion. When people think of examples of a product type or category, they usually think of a ...
(among
physicians A physician (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, America ...

physicians
) because no alternative generic name for the idea is widely used, and as a result, users may not realize that the term is a brand name rather than a
medical eponymMedical eponyms are terms used in medicine which are named after people (and occasionally places or things). In 1975, the Canadian National Institutes of Health held a conference that discussed the naming of diseases and conditions. This was reporte ...
or generic-etymology term. Most often, genericization occurs because of heavy advertising that fails to provide an alternative generic name or that uses the trademark in similar fashion to
generic term Trademark distinctiveness is an important concept in the law governing trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-markThe styling of ''trademark'' as a single word is predominantly used in the United States and Philippines on ...
s. Thus, when the
Otis Elevator Company Otis Worldwide Corporation ( branded as the Otis Elevator Company, its former legal name) is an American company that develops, manufactures and markets elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and related equipment. Based in Farmington, Connect ...
advertised that it offered "the latest in elevator and escalator design," it was using the well-known generic term "elevator" and Otis' trademark "Escalator" for moving staircases in the same way. The Trademark Office and the courts concluded that, if Otis used their trademark in that generic way, they could not stop
Westinghouse Westinghouse may refer to: Businesses Current companies *Westinghouse Licensing, the brand management division of ViacomCBS, and licensees: **Westinghouse Electric Company, providing nuclear power related services **Westinghouse Electronics, wh ...
from calling its moving staircases "escalators", and a valuable trademark was lost through ''genericization''.


In pharmaceuticals

The pharmaceutical industry affords some protection from genericization of trade names with the modern practice of assigning a nonproprietary name for a drug based upon chemical structure. Brand-name drugs have well-known nonproprietary names from the beginning of their commercial existence, even while still under patent, preventing the aforementioned problem of "no alternative generic name for the idea readily coming to mind". For example, even when Abilify was new, its nonproprietary name,
Aripiprazole Aripiprazole, sold under the brand name Abilify among others, is an atypical antipsychotic. It is primarily used in the treatment of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Other uses include as an add-on treatment in major depressive disorder, t ...

Aripiprazole
, was well documented. Another example is
Warfarin Warfarin, sold under the brand name Coumadin among others, is a medication A medication (also called medicament, medicine, pharmaceutical drug, medicinal drug or simply drug) is a drug used to medical diagnosis, diagnose, cure, thera ...

Warfarin
, which was known as an ingredient in rat poison before it was approved for human use under the brand name of Coumadin. Examples of genericization before the modern system of
generic drug A generic drug is a pharmaceutical drug A medication (also called medicament, medicine, pharmaceutical drug, medicinal drug or simply drug) is a drug used to medical diagnosis, diagnose, cure, therapy, treat, or preventive medicine, preven ...
s include
aspirin Aspirin, also known as acetylsalicylic acid (ASA), is a medication used to reduce pain, fever, or inflammation. Specific inflammatory conditions which aspirin is used to treat include Kawasaki disease, pericarditis, and rheumatic fever. Aspirin ...

aspirin
, introduced to the market in 1897, and
heroin Heroin, also known as diacetylmorphine and diamorphine among other names, is an opioid Opioids are substances that act on opioid receptor Opioid receptors are a group of inhibitory G protein-coupled receptors with opioids as ligands. T ...

heroin
, introduced in 1898. Both were originally trademarks of
Bayer AG Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, AG (; ) is a German multinational corporation, multinational pharmaceutical company, pharmaceutical and life sciences company and one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Headquartered in Leverkusen, ...
. However, U.S. court rulings in 1918 and 1921 found the terms to be genericized, stating the company's failure to reinforce the brand's connection with their product as the reason. Bayer's involvement in the
Great Phenol Plot The Great Phenol Plot was a clandestine effort by the German Empire, German Government during the early years of World War I to divert American-produced phenol away from the manufacture of high explosives that supported the United Kingdom, Britis ...
during
World War I World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
, and subsequently the U.S. declaration of war on Germany, were also involved in the case of aspirin and heroin. A different sense of the word ''genericized'' in the pharmaceutical industry refers to products whose patent protection has expired. For example,
Lipitor Atorvastatin, sold under the brand name Lipitor among others, is a statin medication used to prevent cardiovascular disease in those at high risk and treat dyslipidemia, abnormal lipid levels. For the prevention of cardiovascular disease, stati ...

Lipitor
was genericized in the U.S. when the first competing generic version was approved by the FDA in November 2011. In this same context, the term ''genericization'' refers to the process of a brand drug losing market exclusivity to generics.


Trademark erosion

Trademark erosion, or genericization, is a special case of
antonomasia In rhetoric, antonomasia is a kind of metonymy in which an epithet or phrase takes the place of a proper name, such as "the little corporal" for Napoleon I. Conversely, antonomasia can also be using a proper name as an archetypal name, to express a ...
related to
trademark A trademark (also written trade mark or trade-mark) is a type of intellectual property Intellectual property (IP) is a category of property Property is a system of rights that gives people legal control of valuable things, and also r ...

trademark
s. It happens when a trademark becomes so common that it starts being used as a common name ''and'' the original company has failed to prevent such use. Once it has become an appellative, the word cannot be registered any more; this is why companies try hard not to let their trademark become too common, a phenomenon that could otherwise be considered a successful move since it would mean that the company gained an exceptional recognition. Another example of trademark erosion is the verb “to hoover” (used with the meaning of “vacuum cleaning”), originated from the Hoover company brand name.
Nintendo is a Japanese Multinational corporation, multinational consumer electronics and video game company headquartered in Kyoto, Japan. The company was founded in 1889 as by craftsman Fusajiro Yamauchi and originally produced handmade playing ca ...

Nintendo
is an example of a brand that successfully fought trademark erosion, having managed to replace excessive use of its name by the then-neologism
game console A video game console is an electronic device that output Output may refer to: * The information produced by a computer, see * An output state of a system, see * , the amount of goods and services produced ** in economics, the value of net ...
.


Legal concepts

Whether or not a mark is popularly identified as genericized, the owner of the mark may still be able to enforce the
proprietary {{Short pages monitor