I've skirted around topic of generic trademarks on this site before (see my posts on the dumpster, granolas, the frisbee, adrenaline, Kodak, and Xerox), but I've never gone into depth with an explanation. Basically, sometimes brand names for things can get associated with the product in general, normally when that brand has a large share of the market and/or is very good at branding. However, there's such a thing as too good branding, because trademarks in the US and UK can expire if a judge rules that they are now inextricably linked with the product. This sort of thing has happened with words like aspirin and escalator, and many modern companies are in a never-ending legal struggle to stop their trademarks from being ruled generic. LEGO has done a lot of public relations work to ensure that their name only is used for their product and not similar toys; Adobe is probably going to fail to hold onto their trademark Photoshop; and Google has been particularly litigious with this, suing dictionaries that list its name as a verb meaning "search" in general. A pretty interesting concept to casually follow!
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.