At first thought, it sounds like the ultimate success story: the name of your product or service being used as a generic term. It can be exciting to think of your brand being so much associated with an item that it has become the name of the actual item in the minds of consumers.
This phenomenon of trademark erosion is not all that unusual. In fact, it even has a legal term of “genericide,” which by definition is the process by which a trademark owner loses trademark rights because the trademark is used widely and indiscriminately to refer to a type of product or service. Many of the items we use in our everyday lives fall under the category. Some companies have done their best to fight for their trademarked names, and others have accepted it more or less as a compliment.
Here is an alphabetical list of brand names that have become everyday words. Some, like Xerox and Kleenex, will not surprise you, but we think a few others, like escalator and ping pong, will.
Here is list of brand names
Aspirin. Scientists with the Bayer Company began experiments investigating acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) as a pain reliever in 1897. Two years later, Bayer was marketing the medication under the name “aspirin.”
First sold as a powder, aspirin was available in tablet form in 1915. Bayer, a German company, was forced to give up its trademark to the name (and interestingly enough to another product called Heroin) as part of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.
Band-Aid. When you have a cut or skin abrasion to cover, do you call for an adhesive bandage? Of course not, you reach for a “band-aid.” To help consumers recognize the brand name for its famous product, Johnson & Johnsons has added the word “brand” to the product name. It even changed its jingle in ads from “I’m Stuck on Band-Aid” to “I’m Stuck on Band-Aid brand,” for instance.
Chap Stick. When we have chapped lips, we reach for a chap stick, not a lip balm, but “Chap Stick” is the brand name of the product created by Dr. Charles Browne Fleet in the late 1880s and manufactured today by Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.
Dumpster. This was a new one for me. The word dumpster for a large waste receptacle was coined by
Dempster Brothers, Inc. of Knoxville, Tenn. in 1936, and it was patented in 1940.
Escalator. The Otis Elevator Company gave the name “escalator” to its new moving stairs. The name comes from “escalade,” which means to climb a wall by ladder. The word became synonymous with the idea of a moving staircase and therefore eventually lost its trademark protection.
Frisbee – Do you toss a flying disk or a Frisbee? Wham-O coined the catchy term for its popular toy from the Frisbie Baking Company of Bridgeport, Conn. Apparently college students used the bakery’s empty pie tins to play an early version of the toss and catch game.
Google. The name of the world’s largest search engine has become synonymous with the process of using a search engine. Don’t believe me? Google it for yourself.
Hi-liter. Actors with a new script and students cramming for a text use a special pen to “Hi-lite” what they need to know. The name of any fluorescent marker as well as the act of using one is forever linked with the product sold by the Avery Dennison Corporation.
iPod. The catchy name for Apple’s MP3 player has become a household word whether your music player is a real iPod or not.
Jacuzzi. In 1968, Candido Jacuzzi gave his family name to the first self-contained, fully integrated whirlpool bath with incorporating side jets, and the “Jacuzzi” became a status symbol for the rich and famous. Today, despite the fact that there are many hot tub manufacturers, many people call them all “Jacuzzis.”
Kleenex. Kimberly Clark has tried very hard to keep their trademark name for tissue from genericide. One way is by using the phrase the Kleenex brand on all advertising and product placement. Despite their efforts, many Americans still reach for a Kleenex, however, despite the name on the tissue box.
Laundromat. The name we use for a coin-operated laundry facility was actually first the patented name Westinghouse used for a type of automatic washing machine that was popular after World War II. The machine featured coin chutes and timers for washing clothes.
Ping Pong. I admit it, I never thought about the origin of the name of the game “ping pong” before. Although the term for the game of table tennis was in use before the British manufacturer J. Jacques & Son Ltd trademarked it in 1901, it became widely known after Jacques sold the rights to the name to the American game company Parker Brothers. Parker Brothers tried to enforce its trademark for the name, but the popularity of “ping pong” won out over “table tennis” for most players.
Q-Tip. It just feels awkward to say cotton swab, doesn’t it? But that’s what a Q-Tip is. Invented in the early 1920s by Leo Gerstenzang, Q-Tips were originally called “Baby Gays.” The Unilever company changed the product name to Q-tip (with the “Q” standing for quality) in 1926. Unilever still owns the brand today.
Rollerblades. Although they have come to stand in our minds as any type of inline skates, Rollerblade is a specific brand of inline skates owned by Nordica, which is part of the Tecnica Group of Italy.
Scotch tape. Legend has it that the Scotch brand of adhesive tape got its name when an annoyed customer told a 3M scientist to take the tape back to “your Scotch bosses” and to tell them to put more adhesive on it. Today, we use Scotch tape to mean any kind of transparent or invisible tape.
Thermos. The name “thermos” for a type of vacuum flask that keeps its liquid contents cool or warm is a registered trademark in 115 countries. That doesn’t stop us from using it as a generic term for something in our cooler or lunchbox, does it?
Velcro – Swiss engineer George de Mastreal , of Velcro Industries, got the idea for the product known as Velcro when by observing how burrs stick to dog fur. Today, the hook and loop fastener system he designed is known the world over by its brand name.
Wite-Out. The BIC company first marketed this quick-drying correction fluid in 1966. Originally created and trademarked for use with photocopies, Wite-Out is the everyday term we use for any correction fluid we use to blot out our mistakes.
Xerox. The term “Xerox” is synonymous with photocopy. The Haloid Co. of Rochester, N.Y. first trademarked it name for a copying machine from the word “xerography,” a photocopying technique invented by Chester Carlson in 1938. Despite initial strong objections from the Xerox Company, the word became a verb meaning to photocopy something and is an everyday part of our language today.
Yo Yo. Like the Frisbee, the yo-yo was the trademarked name of a toy. Thought to be derived from the northern Philippine Ilokano word “yóyo,” the yo yo came to America in 1928 when Pedro Flores opened the Yo-Yo Manufacturing Company in Santa Barbara, Calif. When Donald F. Duncan bought the business in 182, he trademarked the name.
Zipper. What would you call a zipper other than a “zipper”? The B. F. Goodrich Company registered the name zipper as a trademark for a certain type of overshoes with fasteners. When the fasteners of these Zipper Boots came to be known as “zippers” and began to be copied in other forms of clothing, Goodrich tried to protect its name but was allowed to keep only the right to the name Zipper Boots.
Here are some honorable mentions to add to our list: bikini, tabloid, kerosene, trampoline, saran wrap, teleprompter, power point, granola and viagra. You may have noticed, we didn’t have a “U” on our list. If you have one, be sure to let us know.