image

MORE Company Names as Proprietary Eponyms: Do You Use These Trademarked Brand Terms?

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.

Bubble Wrap

Betcha can't pop just one!

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!

Crock-Pot

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).

Onesies

What's cuter than a baby sleeping in an "infant bodysuit"?

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!

Chapstick

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?

Band-Aid

Adhesive bandage or a Band-Aid?

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!

Image credit to Clipart.com.


Amy Swanson

Amy is one of Quality Logo Products’ content developers and social media coordinators. She is a self-professed newspaper nerd and thoroughly enjoys reading business and financial news and having impromptu discussions about it. Oh yeah, she’s “one of those” people! A true Midwestern girl by nature, she loves riding her bike, photography, and the Chicago Cubs. You can also connect with Amy on

Comments

  1. Bret Bonnet

    Great post… Only if MORE people would show more respect towards/for other parties copyrights and intellectual property.

    • Amy Swanson

      Hmm…. I have no idea ‘what’ or ‘who’ you are referring to, Bret ;) LOL

  2. Kelsey

    The whole wallpaper thing just kills me. Seriously, what? I’m picturing it in my head and it’s the strangest thing. It’s a good thing that didn’t work out because having bubbly walls just doesn’t sound pretty. And oof, what kind of woman am I? The only item out of the few you listed that is actually in my purse is chapsti..er..lip balm… ha! And I have about 3 of them! :)

    This is a really interesting post, Amy! :)

    • Amy Swanson

      I couldn’t stop laughing when I wrote that paragraph too, Kelsey! Isn’t it ridiculous?! I’m surprised they didn’t have someone telling them to maybe look at other uses for it.

      Good catch with the lip balm comment ;) I’m glad you liked the post, they’re always fun to research and write.

  3. Jenna Markowski

    Interesting post, Amy! I had no idea Bubble Wrap was trademarked. It’s something so common and simple, I just figured it was all the same! The infant body suits kill me…the generic term just sounds so creepy. Gerber nailed it by having their brand associated with the much cuter term, onesie. It’s interesting that Johnson & Johnson has trademarked so many product names that became proprietary eponyms: Band-Aid, Tylenol, and Nyquil? People use those three all the time!

    • Amy Swanson

      Thanks, Jenna! I would feel so weird saying, “what an adorable infant body suit little Jimmy is wearing” -shudder-. I’m with you in thinking that it sounds creepy!

      I hadn’t put two and two together with Johnson & Johnson having so many proprietary eponyms with their brands. Wonder if it has something to do with how established they are…? Hmm…. perplexing.

      Thanks for this awesome comment! You certainly got my brain working away now!

      • Jill Tooley

        I’m with you two; I can’t look at or say the phrase “infant body suit” without getting creeped out. I don’t know why exactly! Onesie is so much cuter.

        Band-Aid is the one I’m most guilty of using. “Flexible adhesive bandage” takes longer to say, and I get tongue-tied just thinking about it. By the way, I’ve also recently decided that Band-Aid is the ONLY brand of adhesive bandages that I’ll buy. Generic ones suck! They lose their stickiness after 4 minutes, and they peel off the second you get a drop of water on them. Horrible! [end brand rant]

        Great post, Amy. I’m glad I know these now, because I don’t want to get sued! :)

        • Amy Swanson

          Maybe “onesie” is so cute to say because of the way your mouth forms making it and sounding it out? Lol, I don’t know but I definitely just sat here and said ‘onesie’ a few times.

          I’m with you 100% about buying Band-Aid brand bandages (phew! Trying saying that five times fast!). Store brand ones just aren’t ever the same and I end up going through a box of those a lot quicker than I ever do of Band-Aids.

          Glad to keep you from getting sued, Jill. You were the one I had in mind while I was writing this post ;)

        • Amanda

          LOL too funny! I always say Band Aid, but I will admit…the Curad fabric bandages work pretty well too. They flex so well! You can type with them on. =) One of my friends growing up had a grandma that wouldn’t say crayons….she said Crayolas. hahahaha

          • Amy Swanson

            Oh man, Crayola is like the standard in crayons. Sadly, I know we’ve had this discussion many, many times but it can’t be said too much: Crayola crayons are awesome!! My mom didn’t buy them one year for school supplies and my sister and I never let her live that down, even though it was at least 15 years ago, haha ;)

  4. Cybernetic SAM

    That is remarkable how often we have associated those brand names as terms in everyday use like Kleenex, and Q-Tip and the items you said above. Someone also told me that down south they refer to all Soda, Pop, or Soda-pop (which ever you prefer to call your carbonated beverage), any way they refer to all soda as Coke. That is some crazy neuro-marketing that existed before the science did! I mean think about that, if you automatically associate that product with that name you are probably more likely to actually go for that brand. It would be crazy if these businesses went out of business, technically we wouldn’t be able to use them anymore.

    Here are some other crazy ones I had no idea!:
    Xerox
    White out
    Popsicle
    Kitty Litter
    Jacuzzi
    Hula Hoop
    Hacky Sack
    Dumpster

    • Amy Swanson

      Holy cow! I had no idea these words were trademarked!! Kudos to the person who trademarked ‘Dumpster’, that took a lot of foresight to know that word would eventually become synonymous with trash holding containers, haha!

      Thanks for such an awesome comment, Sam. I love learning more about neuro-marketing, it’s amazing how companies have gotten into (or seeped into) our brains. Truly astounding!

  5. Rachel

    I never knew about Bubble Wrap or Onesies! That’s crazy. I don’t think I can say “infant bodysuits” with a straight face though, hah! Someone’s got to come up with a better generic name than that. One-pieces…? Yeah I don’t know.

    Fun post, Amy! :)

    • Amy Swanson

      I vote for ‘one-pieces’ over ‘infant bodysuit’ any day of the week. Yikes!

      Thanks Rachel!!

  6. Mandy Kilinskis

    I know that Band-Aid is a trademarked name, but it’s really hard to call my sweet Marvel adhesive bandages anything but band-aids.

    Also, infant bodysuit sounds a little terrifying. Onesie is just so cute…

    • Amy Swanson

      Haha, Band-Aids certainly missed the boat with that demographic of customer. Pfft, silly.

      Lol, thanks Mandy for reading!!

  7. Margi Koch

    Amy, what do you know about trade marking a name with a stylized letter and the same name without. The products sold while a different design are designed to do the same thing. Is there any infringement?

    • Amy Swanson

      Oooh, that’s tricky Margi. I’m honestly not that well-versed on trade marking and trade mark enforcement. I would definitely consult with a trademark attorney just to make sure you’re doing everything in your power to protect the names you want.

      Thanks so much for stopping by, Margi! I really appreciate it and I hope everything turns out alright with your situation. Best of luck!

  8. Eric

    You know, Tylenol…NyQuil…medicines really are champion, here, because someone’s a lot more likely to remember a short, simple name than some lengthly, complicated chemical-formula-sounding diatribe.

    “HEY! I NEEDZ ACETAMINOPHEN!”
    “No idea what you’re talkin’ about, bro.”
    “ER…TYLENOL, PLZ?”
    “Oh! Yeah, sure…have a couple!”

    Could probably make an entire post on medicine alone, and it makes perfect sense. Any product name beyond a couple syllables falls behind the ones that become “Name Brand.”

    Interesting post, Amy!

Leave a Comment

Copyright 2003 - 2014 Quality Logo Products, Inc., Registration No. TX7-524-201. All Rights Reserved.