Business·Video

Recognizable product names protected by trademarks

No matter what brand we use to wipe noses, cover cuts or fill facial lines, companies aim to protect the leading brand names associated with popular products.

Do you call it a Kleenex or a facial tissue?

The Band-Aid Brand's Facebook page highlights the company as the originator of the cut covering. (Band-Aid Brand Facebook)

While aspirin is a generic word in much of the world, including the United States, it's still a registered trademark in Canada and several other countries.

Even in a 1952 ad for Aspirin, the company was trying to differentiate it from generic aspirin tablets.

By saying Bayer Aspirin, and pointing out that the extra expense was worth it, the company hoped to protect its trademark and attract consumers back from cheaper alternatives.

Ironically, the more popular a brand gets — like Aspirin, Kleenex or Band-Aid — the less control the manufacturer has over it. Universally used brand names can become generic terms, which may result in the brand owner losing trademark protection.

When Barry Manilow first wrote the Band-Aid jingle in the 1970s, here's how it went:

But it wasn't long before Johnson & Johnson realized that its brand was becoming so widely used, it had become a generic word. So it adjusted the jingle's lyrics.

By referring to "Band-Aid brand," Johnson & Johnson could prove that it was actively protecting its trademark, just in case a competitor tried to use "band-aid" as a generic term with its own brand name.

Here's another product that inserts the word "brand" after its name to protect its trademark.

In addition to protecting their brand in commercials, most companies also run ads in trade magazines. These ads warn journalists that brands like Botox, Gore-Tex, Clorox and Rollerblade must appear with the symbol for registered trademark.

Many companies go even further and forbid journalists from using their brand as a verb or noun, such as "to Xerox a document" or "the sport of rollerblading."

But apparently the most interesting man in the world didn't get the memo. Here, type on the screen asks him what he thinks about "rollerblading."

Back in the '60s, here's how another brand protected its trademark.

Ultimately, ads that stress brands and trademarks are about corporations and lawyers talking to each other, and don't offer consumers any real benefits. After all, if we can get the same quality in a generic product for less money, why wouldn't we?


Bruce Chambers is a syndicated advertising columnist for CBC Radio. 

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