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11 More Seemingly Generic Terms That are Actually Brand Names
written by Sam Greenspan

Last year, I did a list on genericized trademarks a.k.a. proprietary eponyms a.k.a. brand names that have become so synonymous with the product that people don't realize they're brand names at all and sometimes lose their trademarks as a result a.k.a. stuff and things. It's what would've happened to TiVo if "DVR" didn't have such a sexy ring to it.

The list included things like ping pong, escalator, tabloid, dumpster and heroin. And then, like an IDIOT, I included 10 honorable mentions at the end of the list. First of all, I have no idea why I completely betrayed my brand and didn't include an 11th. Second of all, how did I not realize that would handicap me if I wanted to write a follow-up? I write follow-ups to like half of the lists I do on here. What was I thinking?

I really do not know. What I DO know is I was able to get beyond the 21 brands I featured last time to unearth 11 more seemingly generic terms that are actually brand names.

  1. Not every trampoline is officially cursed, but all are unofficially cursed.
    Trampoline (rebound tumbler) - It's probably best for the original trademark holders, George Nissen and Larry Griswold (and their children), that "trampoline" became a generic term which caused them to lose their trademark -- because it certainly has saved them from being named in millions of mangled child lawsuits. (Downside: No equity in Slamball. It's coming back one day, you heard it here first.)

  2. ZIP code (no generic term) - When the U.S. Postal Service decided it needed a more efficient way to deliver mail, they came up codes representing different areas. They named them ZIP codes, with ZIP standing for Zone Improvement Plan. They got a trademark on the term in the '70s but let it lapse in 1997. And now it appears ZIP codes will outlast the Postal Service.

  3. TV dinner (frozen meal) - Swanson came up with the name "TV dinner" in 1953... although they initially went with the clunkier "TV Brand Frozen Dinner." They stopped using the term in 1962, although they still make frozen dinners. Am I the only person that has used Swanson and Samsonite interchangeably for two decades now because of Dumb and Dumber?

  4. Adrenalin (epinephrine) - It's a slippery slope for companies to trademark things you're making naturally in your body, but a slippery slope the government seems happy enough to luge down. The official name for the hormone secreted by your adrenal glands is epinephrine; adrenalin is trademarked (and sold) by a Pfizer subsidary called Parke-Davis. So next time you have to jam a needle of the stuff into someone's heart because she's ODing on you, make sure not to also commit trademark infringement.


  5. This is, in fact, a Crock-Pot brand Crock-Pot.
    Crock-Pot (slow cooker) - Sunbeam still owns the trademark on Crock-Pot, although it seems like it's spiraled out of their control quite a bit. Sadly, I can already tell the biggest takeaway for me from this list will be noticing when "Crock-Pot" has that hyphen and dual capitalization.

  6. Realtor (real estate agent) - Realtors are members of the National Association of Realtors, which is a trade and lobbying group. Apparently, 10 years ago, some guy tried to get the patent office to genericize the trademark and the patent office turned him down. Knowing nothing about the case, I am outraged and find him obnoxious and think he should back off. That's the American way.

  7. Super Heroes (superheroes) - Believe it or not, DC Comics and Marvel Comics have a joint trademark on "Super Hero" and have since the 1960s. Of course, assuming you write it without capitalizing the "S" and "H," it's not violating the trademark -- this feels more symbolic than anything. And as we know from Batman, this city needs a symbol.


  8. Not styrofoam.
    Styrofoam (extruded polystyrene foam) - We call basically everything styrofoam-y "styrofoam," which is technically incorrect -- things like packing peanuts, coffee cups, old McDonald's sandwich containers and the coolers you buy at the grocery store that crack within four hours are made from slightly different types of polystyrene foam. That's not really fascinating but it's mildly interesting, so hey, cool.

  9. Hacky sack (footbag) - On my last list of generic terms that are actually brand names, I had granola. Now I have hacky sack on this one. How could things get any worse for my strong hippie readership?

  10. Lava lamp (liquid motion lamp) - Ah. That's how.

  11. Popsicle (ice pop) - Creamsicle and Fudgsicle are also trademarks, all owned by Good Humor. Klondike is also owned by Good Humor. Bomb Pop is owned by Blue Bunny; Good Humor's version is called the Firecracker. Eskimo Pie is owned by Nestle (via Dreyer's/Edy's), as is Chipwich and Drumstick. Got all that? Basically, it sums up the moral of this list: Just don't call anything anything.


This post was originally published on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 at 11:00:00 AM under the category Misc.

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