Photo: Chris Frape via flickr
Companies often hate it when their trademarks are used to describe other products, and see it as a misrepresentation of their brand.There are advantages too. Brands whose names have been adopted by the public for common use have a huge advantage in spreading their names by word-of-mouth.
All of these brands were trademarked at some point in their histories, but a few have lost their legal protection because they became too much of a common name.
Introduced in: 1960
Company: Sealed Air Corporation
What it's supposed to be called: Air bubble packaging
In all its poppable glory, Bubble Wrap was originally called Air Cap. Its inventors first tried to market it as wallpaper, and later as greenhouse insulation. A few years later, it started being used as packaging material, and became popular after it started being used as packaging for IBM computers.
Introduced in: 1936
Company: Dempster Brothers
What it's supposed to be called: Mobile garbage bin
In a mashup of 'Dempster' and 'dump', Dumpster came into being as a mechanical loading system. The term didn't become popular until the company came up with the Dempter Dumpmaster, which was the first front-loading garbage truck that used the system.
Introduced in: 1901
Company: Jaques & Son
What it's supposed to be called: Table tennis
Ping pong served as a nickname for table tennis since the late 1800s (along with its other nickname, wiff waff), but UK manufacturer Jaques & Son trademarked it after the turn of the century. It would later sell the rights to big-time toy company Parker Brothers, which popularised the name in the U.S.
Introduced in: 1900
What it's supposed to be called: Conveyor transport device, moving stairway
The term became part of the public vernacular when Otis lost a landmark trademark case over the rights to 'escalator' in 1950.
Introduced in: 1904
Company: Thermos, LLC.
What it's supposed to be called: Vacuum flask
Thermos, LLC is big on temperature control. Its mantra, 'Hot matters. Cold matters. It matters.,' has apparently resonated with consumers who enjoy their lunches at a certain temperature, as the Thermos has withstood the test of time.
It lost its trademark when the term was declared generic in 1963.
Introduced in: 1954
Company: C.A. Swanson and Sons
What it's supposed to be called: Frozen meal
The bane of nutritionists and traditionalists, the 'TV Dinner' was popularised by C.A. Swanson and Sons and was thought to be the cultural demise of post-war America. The original brand was called 'TV Brand Frozen Dinner.'
Today, the term 'TV Dinner' is unprotected, and refers to meals in the frozen food aisle à la Lean Cuisine.
Introduced in: 1905
Company: Frank Epperson, later the Joe Lowe Company of New York
What it's supposed to be called: Frozen ice treat on a stick
The legendary birth of the popsicle (Epperson left a syrupy drink outside in the cold overnight) gave way to a beloved American frozen treat, and later on, a number of copyright wars.
Today, the brand Popsicle is trademarked by Unilever, who makes it clear on their website that Popsicle is 'NOT a name for just any frozen pop on a stick.'
Introduced in: 1940
What it's supposed to be called: Coin laundry shop
The Laundromat brand was first a wall-mounted automatic washing machine, created by legendary electrical company Westinghouse. In the 1950's it was also registered as coin laundry.
The trademark has since been genericized, and laundry shops across the world use it.
Introduced in: 1985
What it's supposed to be called: Large-screen television
JumboTron is one the biggest non-projection video displays ever made. It originally was a multi-module CRT wall, but it has since adopted LED technology. Commentators and fans alike often call all arena big screens jumbotrons, even though Sony still has the trademark.
Introduced in: 1974
Company: Jack Cover, then Taser International, Inc.
What it's supposed to be called: Stun gun
Tasers have revolutionised policing, and have saved countless lives by giving officers a tool that deploys non-lethal force. According to CBS' '60 Minutes,' the taser is now used by 16,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and is trademarked by Taser International.
Introduced in: 1897
Company: Bayer Healthcare, LLC.
What it's supposed to be called: Blood-thinning drug, acetylsalicylic acid
Aspirin has a number of properties that has kept it relevant more than 100 years after its invention; it is still used to combat arthritis, reduce fever and menstrual cramps, alleviate toothaches and muscle aches, and thwart blood clotting.
Interestingly, as part of the Treaty of Versailles, Bayer was forced to give up its trademark on Aspirin when Germany was defeated in World War I.
Introduced in: 1929
What it's supposed to be called: Toy on a string
With its slogan 'if it's not a Duncan, it's not a yo-yo,' Duncan tried to make it clear to the rest of the world that they were the titan and sole keeper of the beloved yo-yo. It was deemed generic in the U.S. in 1965.
Introduced in: 1912
Company: Morton Manufacturing Company
What it's supposed to be called: Lip balm
Chapstick is so popular that there are a number of websites devoted to 'chapstick addiction.' Pfizer still has a registered trademark on this iconic product, yet the brand has become a genericized trademark over time.
Introduced in: 1854
Company: Abraham Gesner (inventor)
What it's supposed to be called: Combustible hydrocarbon liquid, parrafin (UK)
Kerosene is still a critical source of energy for the world's poorest denizens, who lack access to electricity. This gas is used for space heaters and jet fuel, but has been villified by environmentalists for its carbon emissions.
The name was eventually genericized, so it's no longer protected.
Introduced in: 1957
What it's supposed to be called: Flying disc
The frisbee, the college campus and beach day staple, has been trademarked by toy manufacturing giant Wham-O. The American company seems to have a patent on childhood, as they also have trademarked the iconic Hula-Hoop and Slip-'N-Slide.
Introduced in: 1956
What it's supposed to be called: Hot tub
Little did the Jacuzzi brothers know that their tub equipped with a hydrotherapy pump, created to relieve a family member's rheumatoid arthritis symptoms, would revolutionise relaxation. Who knew that Jacuzzi also manufactures showers and toilets?
Introduced in: 1920
Company: Max Pohlig and Ernst Gottschall (inventors)
What it's supposed to be called: Spring stilts, hopping vehicle
The youth of today seem to have chosen Playstation over Pogo Sticks; however, these springboards have held onto its original moniker, a combination of Pohlig and Gottschall's surnames.
Introduced in: 1941
What it's supposed to be called: Tiny hooks that attach to loops and stick together
Perhaps Velcro has become a generic name not only because it is an everyday household item, but because it would be difficult to come up with an alternative.
Introduced in: 1936
Company: Rohm and Haas
What it's supposed to be called: Moldable plastic, polymethyl methacrylate
Otto Rohm patented Plexiglas just in time for it to be utilized in World War II; glass was replaced in military aircrafts with these shatterproof sheets of plastic. Know anyone who wears dentures or custom orthotics? They can thank Rohm and Haas for their medical devices.
Though other moldable plastics have been derived since this patent was issued, there is still only one patented Plexiglas.
Introduced in: 1917
Company: Universal Fastener Company
What it's supposed to be called: Separable fastener
The zipper of 2012 is nearly identical to the zipper patented by Gideon Sundback in 1917. Used in everything from blue jeans to backpacks, suitcases to spacesuits, the zipper and its name have withstood the test of time, though it has since been officially declared generic.
Introduced in: 1920
Company: Johnson & Johnson
What it's supposed to be called: Adhesive bandage
The Band-Aid was initially met with resistance; according to the Band-Aid website, the original adhesives were manufactured by hand and garnered only $3,000 in revenue its first year on the market. Yet, by 2001, the company reached an impressive milestone of having manufacturing 100 billion Band-Aids.
Introduced in: 1938
What it's supposed to be called: Copy machine, photocopier
According to Xerox, the first xerographic copy was made in a makeshift laboratory in Astoria, Queens on October 22, 1938. 70-plus years later, trillions of pages have been copied, as college students and interns can attest.
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