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April 9, 2012

Is the Apple iPad Tablet Product Name on the Road to Genericism?

iPadImage.pngDo you own an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet?

For most of us, the important thing is that we own one period. But then again, most of us are not trademark attorneys.

In a recent Associated Press article, business writer Mae Anderson rightly suggests that the Apple iPad tablet runs the very real risk of becoming a genericized brand name and subsequently losing its very valuable trademark.

To avoid becoming a generic brand, a company's Intellectual Property (IP) counsel may offer a set of guidelines similar to these:

Don't use a mark as a noun, Do use the mark as an adjective
  • It's Kleenex brand tissue, not Kleenex
Don't use the mark as a verb
  • You don't xerox something, rather, you make a copy of it using a Xerox brand photocopier
Don't use the possessive form
  • It's not Nike's new shoe, it's the new shoe from Nike brand
Don't change the form of a mark
  • It's Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system, not Win2000

In other words, marketers should not:

Rollerblade, wear Levi's, drink a Coke or line their lips with Chap Stick.
Instead marketers need to:
Ambulate (to move about) using Rollerblade brand inline skates, wear Levi's jeans, drink a Coca-Cola soft drink and line their lips with the Chap Stick brand lip balm.

To accomplish this, brand managers in partnership with their IP counsel have created more than enough pages of 'brand guidelines' to fill an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet.

Yet even marketers with the best intentions break their own rules:

  • Google's logo is in constant morph
  • Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, told us that Bing has the potential 'to verb-up'
  • Vanguard breaks two rules with it's tagline - "Are you investing, or Vanguarding"
  • And every company that uses just the brand name URL breaks the rule as well -,, and

Since our English language is on a collision course with the path of least resistance (think Twitter and text messaging) and since the internet has created a forum for each and everyone of us to use words and brands in the way that most appeals to us, there are very few linguistic barriers on the road to genercism.

This could be a positive considering some of the iPad associations.

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Posted by Diane Prange at April 9, 2012 11:16 AM
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