In today’s age of Tweeting and liking things, it isn’t the least bit surprising that words we once thought were fair game are actually trademarked by companies. We’re not talking about obvious words like Frisbee (trademarked by Wham-o) or Rollerblade (a brand of inline skates owned by Nordica), but common words we’ve just applied to any product matching the description.
As a small business owner or entrepreneur, maybe you’ve created the perfect product and now you’re ready to name it. Before you start the presses on flyers promoting your new product, make sure the name is available to trademark.
Not all bubble pack is created equal. Okay, well maybe it is, but you can’t call it all the same name. Sealed Air Corporation trademarked Bubble Wrap in 1960 when Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes took two shower curtains and sealed them together, which created little air bubbles. They took their newly discovered product and tried to sell it as wallpaper. Shockingly, the product bombed as wallpaper (guess they didn’t have someone tell them ahead of time it was a silly idea) so the team shifted marketing gears and sold it as greenhouse insulation. The two engineers founded Sealed Air Corporation in 1960 and continued to sell their insulation.
A few years later they discovered how awesome their product was as a protective packaging material. It was first used by IBM to protect their IBM 1401 computer during the shipping process. Not every blister pack you get with your online purchase is Bubble Wrap, so be careful about using this trademarked word all willy-nilly!
For all those slow cooker lovers out there who enjoy throwing something in it in the morning and coming home with dinner all ready to go, here’s your shout out! The Crock-Pot (Crockpot with no hyphen isn’t trademarked, but with a hyphen it is trademarked by Jarden Corporation) came to be in late summer of 1970 as a simple bean-cooker. This must-have appliance really took off when they started to expand their cookbook to offer a variety of recipes for main course meals. So, there you have it; using the word Crockpot is fair game, but using Crock-Pot will land you a scary cease-and-desist letter and a bunch of other scary consequences (it’s best to avoid that, when possible).
Every person who has been around an infant for more than two hours knows how fast they go through clothing and how important it is to have plenty of Onesies around. Be careful, though — unless those Onesies are from Gerber, then you’re actually calling this simple item of clothing by a trademarked term. Infant bodysuits is the general term for them (which is not nearly as endearing as Onesies) and have been a must in every diaper bag and baby showers for generations!
There are a few items that every woman has in her purse at all times. Play along and see how many you can match up with: compact mirror, pen (bonus points if it’s a promotional pen), nail file, and Chapstick (or as it’s generically called, lip balm). How’d you do? The last one on this list is the one that is trademarked, and for good reason too! Many people associate the term Chapstick with any lip balm on the market and not with only this specific brand.
We were close to never having this wonderful brand around, though. In the late 1800s, American physician and Chapstick inventor Charles Browne Fleet began selling the soothing lip balm but couldn’t get customers enthused to buy it. In the beginning of the 1900s, John Morton bought the rights to Chapstick for only five dollars! It’s come a long way since those early days and I can’t imagine life without it, can you?
Johnson & Johnson is no newbie to trademarking products. They have almost 250 brands to their name (including: Neutrogena, Listerine, Tylenol, and Splenda). Quite possibly one of the most popular, though, is their Band-Aid brand adhesive bandages. These amazing little guys were invented to solve a very common problem, like getting minor cuts and scrapes that need to be covered up to heal properly, but nothing too serious to be rushed to the ER with. Earle Dickson wanted to make it easier for his young wife Josephine to cover up the burns and cuts she got from cooking dinner, so he stuck cotton gauze on adhesive strips and covered them with crinoline. Viola! One accident prone wife was the idea generator behind these amazing branded adhesive bandages.
These companies have created products that consumers just can’t imagine living without, and because of that copy-cats will come in and try to use their brand name (sometimes without even realizing it). Don’t get caught facing angry emails or court dates about misusing a trademarked term for your own financial gain. Be smart and do some research before you get too far ahead!
Do any of these names surprise you that they’re trademarked? Are you guilty of mistakenly calling another product by one of these names? Sound off below!