When was the last time you put “cotton swabs” on your grocery list instead of Q-Tips? Do you store leftovers in zipper storage bags and airtight plastic food containers or just Ziplocs and Tupperware? Surely at some point in your shopping life, you’ve picked up some closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam cups, but you probably just called them Styrofoam. These are all examples of brand names that are commonly used as generic product names, and there are plenty more out there – like Jet Ski, Band-Aid, Frisbee and Dumpster – the list goes on.
So, if you’re Earl Silas Tupper and your brand’s name has become the generic word people use to describe their storage containers, is it a good or bad thing? It depends on who you ask. Some say this transition from brand name to generic term is a good thing because it means your brand is so powerful that it becomes an everyday word. Others think it waters down the value of your name; they point out that “Mercedes” wouldn’t mean anything special if “Mercedes” just meant “car.”
Could this be a problem for you? According to an article by Nora Richardson on biznik.com, only about 5% of U.S. brand names ever become generic terms, so you shouldn’t devote too much time to worrying about it. However, if your brand reaches such a level of popularity that its name becomes a commonly used noun (or even a verb in Google’s case), enjoy your accomplishment – you’ve got an incredibly popular brand. Just keep an eye on the expiration date of your trademark and be sure to maintain the good name you’ve earned.