Proper Trademark Use

Proper trademark use requires trademarks are used as adjectives or adverbs and not as nouns.

 

The main purpose of trademark law is to allow consumers to identify the maker of products or the business offering services by a symbol, word, phrase or anything that allows consumers to know the source of goods or services. For example, when a consumer sees a Coca-Cola bottle at a gas station, they know who made the soda beverage and what to expect when they drink it.

 

In order for trademarks to function as source identifiers they must be used as adjectives or adverbs and not as nouns or verbs. When trademarks are used as nouns or verbs, they risk becoming generic of the goods or services. Generic words cannot function as trademarks because they do not identify the manufacturer of a product or what business is offering a service.

 

For example, TRAMPOLINE, YO YO, ASPIRIN, and ZIPPER used to all be registered trademarks but loss their trademark rights because they were used as nouns rather than adjectives and became generic. One instance of a trademark registration being on the brink of becoming generic is XEROX because it became a noun synonymous with copier machines. Xerox saved their trademark by undergoing an expensive ad campaign to inform the public to use the word XEROX as an adjective and not a noun.

 

An ad run by Xerox, the company, to inform consumers how to properly use the XEROX trademark.

 

One example of commonly misused trademark by the public is GOOGLE. When people say “Just GOOGLE it” they are using GOOGLE as a verb. The correct to use the Google trademark correctly would be to say “run a GOOGLE search” or “look that up on the GOOGLE search engine.” Some dictionaries even lists Google as a trademark and verb. Will Google have to run an expensive advertising campaign to stop people from using GOOGLE as a verb like Xerox did to stop people from using XEROX as a verb meaning to copy paper?

 

Definition of Google from dictionary.com states that GOOGLE is a brand name for search engines and is a verb related to internet searches. Seems to me that it is already somewhat a generic term.

 

If you currently own a trademark, the best way to prevent your brand from becoming generic is to always use it as an adverb or adjective. A simple rule of thumb is if you sell products, use your trademark and then the product name after, e.g. UNDER ARMOUR (trademark) shoes (product). For a service, use your service mark or the distinctive part of your service mark and then list the service after it, e.g. GRANITE (distinctive element) TRADEMARK SERVICES (service provided).

 

If you have any questions about how to properly use your trademark, leave it in the comment section below or contact us directly and we will do our best to help you out.

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