Originally posted 2011-06-21 14:25:29. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

The Merriam-Webster Online dictionary has a cute little feature:  The “Top Ten Words from Trademarks.”  You know, mainly the usual suspects:  Band-Aids, etc.  It’s a study in what can go wrong if you don’t “police” your trademark, yada-yada-yada.

Noah Webster
A Webster, not a webster

Speaking of brand management and equity, when I saw this link — hat-tip to Jane Coleman! — it reminded me of how much the Merriam-Webster people need to do stuff like this to build back the primacy they ought to have online but which I have the impression has been ceded to Dictionary.com.

That, in turn, made me think of one very famous “word from a trademark” — the one damnable genericized mark — Merriam-Webster left out of the list!

UPDATE:  I didn’t take a screen shot when I first published this post, but as of June 29, 2011, here’s how Merriam Webster shows up in a Google search for the word DICTIONARY, at least from my desktop in New York:

Looking it up

Second result — not too shabby.

By Ron Coleman

I write this blog.

7 thoughts on “Museum of genericization”
  1. I suppose when you’re only listing ten, you have to make choices. How could you rank “moxie” or “pablum” (two words I’ve never heard in conversation) over “aspirin” or “brassiere”? Not to mention “escalator” or “yo-yo”.

  2. I found the choices a little strange, too. “Moxie” and “pablum” are words that will probably be completely archaic in another 20 years.

  3. Wow, wow, wow. Wonder where they go their info. They concede “Ping-Pong” is a registered trademark in the U.S. (No. 283,767 for “hollow composition and like balls for indoor bat or racket games, table games, tennis type games, and the like,” and others), so how is it generic? You can also check out http://www.pingpong.com owned by the trademark owner; they don’t consider it generic. “Moxie” is also still registered for “nonalcoholic, maltless carbonated beverage and sirup for making the same,” No. 189,066 (and others), and you can buy it all over. I don’t think using the word for a different, non-trademark meaning makes the trademark generic. Or Spam wouldn’t be a trademark either.

  4. Well, I said “generic”; they said “words from trademarks.” So you can blame me for imprecision here. (It’s the theme of the week on LIKELIHOOD OF CONFUSION!)

    SPAM is a trademark, but it’s also a word. The genesis of the word is, indeed, the trademark-protected product, but it is now settled — if there was every any question — that it is a word in the English language than can be used to describe… spam. But SPAM is not generic for canned meats.

    Same thing for MOXIE. Nope, no one can use it to sell nonalcoholic, maltless carbonated beverages or syrup for making the same. But do sharp New York litigators like me get paid to demonstrate how much moxie we’ve got? U-Bet!

    In contrast, yes, PING PONG is registered as a trademark, but, unlike SPAM or MOXIE, no one would use it to describe anything but the trademark-protected term, i.e., table tennis. And virtually no one would not use it for that. No, no one has gone to the mat to invalidate this trademark, but any good trademark litigator could if put upon. Ask any kid what “a ping pong table” is — you think he or she will say, “A brand of table tennis tables”?

    That‘s generic.

Comments are closed.