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Genericide is a Brand Killer

Krzysztof Siekielski

Kleenex, Xerox, and Aspirin all started out as brand names. Now, they are generic terms for the products they represent; however, some companies are trying to fighting back.  

Think of how many words have been added to the English language by brand names. Like Aspirin, Cellophane, Escalator, YoYo, Trampoline. Even Heroin originally was the name of a brand of morphine.

In each case, these words, and hundreds more, were created by companies to identify a product or brand of products, and many were lost to what lawyers call "genericide." That’s what happens when an originator loses trademark rights for a name.

It’s most likely to happen, according to Sabri Ben Achour in a recent article in Marketplace, when a company introduces something that is totally new. Something for which no word already exists. Xerox for instance. Or Frisbee.

Genericide used to be quite common, but company lawyers have gotten a lot smarter. They protect the registered name by providing a second, generic identification, such as Xerox did with the word photocopy. As long as there was another identification for Xerox copies, such as photocopies, Xerox was able to avoid genericide.

When Viagra loses its trademark, a lot of outfits will jump to sell generic Viagra. They won’t be able to because Viagra also provided the generic identity, Sildenafil Citrate, and it’s clearly identifiable on every Viagra logo.

Mr. Achour suggests that Sildenafil Citrate may not be a catchy identity for knockoffs. I suspect he’s right.

To reach Mr. Malmo, hear and read more of his commentaries, or to ask him your own marketing question, http://askmalmo.com

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