16 Words You Use Every Day You Didn’t Realize Are Trademarked
Bubble Wrap® is not a generic term. Neither is Realtor®. Did you know any of these common words are actually trademarked brands?
First, what is a trademark?
A trademark is a word, symbol, device, or any combination used to identify and distinguish someone’s goods or services from others. Simply using a brand name to sell a product makes it a trademark, but most companies register trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. This provides exclusive rights to use that mark, publicizes who the owner is, and allows the owner to take legal action in federal court over a dispute concerning the mark. Only registered trademarks can use the ® symbol. Registration expires after 10 years and can be renewed for additional 10-year periods. Unregistered trademarks come with “common law” rights—generally whoever uses the mark first has the right to use it in that way—but they are not governed by statute and only cover the geographical area in which the mark is used. These are followed by a TM. (Check out these other phrases you never knew were trademarked!)
What if you forget that ® symbol?
Trademarks serve a commercial purpose: to prevent unfair competition by confusing or deceiving customers. If someone registers a trademark for a cupcake store, no one else can use that trademark or a similar one for a different cupcake store or bakery. The mark could potentially be used for a different product—a type of cell phone, for instance—as long as it does not damage the reputation of the original trademark holder. So what if you use a trademark in your blog or even a casual conversation? Nothing! Anyone can use trademarked words for informational or editorial purposes (including this article) or when comparing them to other products without acknowledging the symbol. However, it is a good idea to capitalize or italicize those words in writing. (Make sure you cut these 12 words with surprisingly offensive origins out of your vocabulary for good!)
Trademark registered: August 2, 1983
Owner: Sealed Air Corporation
Generic term: inflated cushioning; packing material
Trademark registered: May 27, 1986
Owner: Kawasaki Heavy Industries, LTD
Generic term: personal watercraft
Trademark registered: February 8, 1972
Owner: Sunbeam Products, Inc.
Generic term: slow cooker
Trademark registered: April 21, 2009
Owner: Wyeth LLC
Generic term: lip balm
Trademark registered: June 9, 1931
Owner: SOP Services, Inc.
Generic term: table tennis
Trademark registered: January 16, 2001
Owner: ConopCo, Inc.
Generic term: ice pop
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Trademark registered: December 16, 1975
Owner: Velcro Industries
Generic term: hook-and-loop fastener
P Maxwell Photography/shutterstock
Trademark registered: January 13, 1925
Owner: Johnson & Johnson Corporation
Generic term: adhesive bandage
Trademark registered: January 20, 2004
Owner: Google Inc.
Generic term: Internet search engine
Trademark registered: January 10, 1950
Owner: National Association of Realtors Corporation
Generic term: real estate agent
Trademark registered: March 19, 1985
Owner: Tecnica Group S.P.A.
Generic term: inline skates
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Trademark registered: March 14, 1967
Owner: DC Comics Partnership, Marvel Characters, Inc.
Generic term: superhero
Trademark registered: April 1, 2008
Owner: Taser International, Inc.
Generic term: electroshock weapon
Trademark registered: January 22, 2002
Owner: CONOPCO, Inc.
Generic term: petroleum jelly
Trademark registered: March 31, 1951
Owner: The Dow Chemical Company
Generic term: polystyrene foam
Trademark registered: March 19, 2002
Owner: Gerber Childrenswear LLC
Generic term: bodysuit
*Only for infant’s and children’s clothing. Trademark for adult clothing was filed but not yet registered
(Don’t miss these 22 words and phrases with surprising military origins.)