Products can be too popular for their own good. Take zipper, for example. Today, it’s used as a generic term for the interlocking steel teeth that keep you from exposing yourself to the public, but in the 1920’s, it was a distinct brand: the Zipper, invented and marketed by B.F. Goodrich, which was such a successful alternative to the boring old button that it lost its capital ‘Z’ in the mind of the public and became a generic term that lost its trademark… and once it lost its trademark, anyone could call their rip-off product a “zipper” as if it was the real thing.
It’s a very real issue that many companies spend a good deal of money on every year. They want their brand to be synonymous with a certain type of product, but they don’t want it to be so synonymous that they lose ownership of the brand. And it’s why, if you like, say, Jell-O, or Xerox, or Kleenex, you shouldn’t refer to similar products from another company by the same name.
Over at The News Virginian, there’s an interesting think piece by AP writer Mae Anderson if the same thing could happen to the iPad. It’s a great read on the history of trademarks becoming generic, but it’s not really very likely to happen to the iPad. Here’s why.