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16 Words You Use Every Day You Didn’t Realize Are Trademarked

Updated: Jan. 20, 2023

Bubble Wrap® is not a generic term. Neither is Realtor®. Did you know any of these common words are actually trademarked brands?

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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 ten years and can be renewed for additional ten-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. If you thought that was confusing, you’ll want to read the 20 most confusing grammar rules in the English language.

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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 stop saying these 12 words with surprisingly offensive origins.

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Bubble Wrap®

Trademark registered: August 2, 1983

Owner: Sealed Air Corporation

Generic term: inflated cushioning; packing material

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Jet Ski®

Trademark registered: May 27, 1986

Owner: Kawasaki Heavy Industries, LTD

Generic term: personal watercraft

Learn the right way to say these 20 words even smart people mispronounce.

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Kitch Bain/Shutterstock


Trademark registered: February 8, 1972

Owner: Sunbeam Products, Inc.

Generic term: slow cooker

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Studio KIWI/Shutterstock


Trademark registered: April 21, 2009

Owner: Wyeth LLC

Generic term: lip balm. 

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Trademark registered: June 9, 1931

Owner: SOP Services, Inc.

Generic term: table tennis

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Trademark registered: January 16, 2001

Owner: ConopCo, Inc.

Generic term: ice pop

Make sure you never mispronounce these 17 common foods at a restaurant again.

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Josep Curto/shutterstock


Trademark registered: December 16, 1975

Owner: Velcro Industries

Generic term: hook-and-loop fastener

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P Maxwell Photography/shutterstock


Trademark registered: January 13, 1925

Owner: Johnson & Johnson Corporation

Generic term: adhesive bandage.

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Evan Lorne/shutterstock


Trademark registered: January 20, 2004

Owner: Google Inc.

Generic term: Internet search engine.

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Trademark registered: January 10, 1950

Owner: National Association of Realtors Corporation

Generic term: real estate agent

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Trademark registered: March 19, 1985

Owner: Tecnica Group S.P.A.

Generic term: inline skates. Don’t miss these 15 words that used to have completely different meanings.

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Sunny studio/shutterstock

Super Hero®

Trademark registered: March 14, 1967

Owner: DC Comics Partnership, Marvel Characters, Inc.

Generic term: superhero

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Trademark registered: April 1, 2008

Owner: Taser

Generic term: electroshock weapon.

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Trademark registered: January 22, 2002

Owner: CONOPCO, Inc.

Generic term: petroleum jelly

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Trademark registered: March 31, 1951

Owner: The Dow Chemical Company

Generic term: polystyrene foam. Don’t miss these 14 companies with fascinating histories behind their names.

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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.) Next, check out these other everyday phrases you never knew were trademarked.