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Proper Trademark Usage

Use your trademark as an adjective

A trademark should be used as an adjective, and whenever possible, it should be followed by a descriptive noun, a generic description of the goods. For example APPLE® computer, SHARPIE® marker, NIKE® shoes.  Many companies use the word brand after the trademark to reduce confusion and to clarify that it is a trademark.  For example BAND-AID® brand bandages, LEVI’s® brand jeans.

Never use your mark as a noun

“I need a kleenex”, or “Do you have any band-aids?”  These uses of the mark weaken the strength of the trademark.  The brand is being confused with the product itself.  “I need a KLEENEX® brand tissue” and “Do you have any BAND-AID® brand bandages” are stronger ways to use the mark.

Do not use the mark as a verb

You can “copy something on a XEROX® copier”, you don’t xerox it. You don’t “Google” something- you do a search on the Google® search engine.

Distinguish the mark from the surrounding text

Some examples of how to distinguish a mark- the whole trademark capitalized- LENOVO®, initial letters capitalized with quotes- “Pizza Hut®”, italics- Coca-Cola®, bold-faced type Nintendo®, different font or color- Google®. The generic name should not be capitalized or included in the different type font-Post-It® brand postage notes.

Avoid possessive or plural

A trademark is not the name of the product and cannot possess anything.  Only the generic product name can possess anything.  For example, “APPLE’s advantage is… “ is incorrect.  It can be rewritten as “The Apple® computer’s advantage is…”.  ”Try our NIKEs today” is incorrect.  It can be rewritten as ”Try our Nike® brand running shoes.”

Be Consistent

From the beginning present your mark the same way every time.  If you are not consistent, it weakens the mark, and increases the likelihood that consumers will use it generically.

We suggest creating a style sheet guide for your employees, contractors, and licensee’s on how to use the mark:

One word or more than one word
Apostrophe etc.
Determine what the generic term is for your product
Where will the logo be placed on your product?
Color-  create a color guide

Avoid genericide

Genericide is when a brand name loses its distinctive identity as a result of being used to refer to any product or service of its kind.

This loss occurs if consumers see the trademark as a description of a product.  Some common brands that are generic, or have risked being generic are: escalator, aspirin, kleenex, thermos, yo-yo, band-aid.  When you think of these terms, you may think of a specific product, but not as a product produced from just one company.   For example,  yo-yo was a brand, but now is used as the generic name of a child’s toy.  If you asked for a yo-yo, the brand or company that produced it would not be relevant, you would just want the toy that goes up and down on a string. The following marks were brands, but are now a generic name or partially generic for a specific product.

“thermos”- Thermos® company’s mark for “vacuum flasks” (it is still a registered trademark, but is considered partially generic, and is clearly used by the market as a generic term)

“Yo-yo”-  Duncan company’s mark, is now the generic name for the child’s toy

“escalator”-  Otis Elevator company’s mark for “moving stairs”

“zipper” – B.F. Goodrich company’s mark for “slide fasteners”

Be vigilant,  use your mark correctly and avoid genericide.