Genericide refers to the gradual process of a trademarked term becoming generic through use by the common individual. When a term becomes generic, the term cannot receive a trademark nor can current trademarks be enforced. This process can be harmful to companies, but they do not have much control over how the common person refers to their trademarked products. For example, escalator was originally a protected trademark used to designate the moving stairs manufactured by a specific company. Overtime, the common individual used the term to refer to any moving stairs and thus lost its trademark protection. Other examples of trademarks that have become generic terms are lite beer, soft soap, and cola.
Because trademark protection can be critical for the financial success of their products, companies often litigate vigorously to protect their trademarks from being described as generic. While they cannot necessarily control how the average consumer uses their trademarked term, companies can take certain measures to reduce the chances of genericide. Firstly, it is important to add descriptive terms beside the products to avoid the brand name becoming genericized such as “disinfectant wipes” for Clorox. Second, companies should not refer to their products in a generic way like using the term as a verb. Thirdly, companies should take care to use legal channels when someone infringes on a trademark because otherwise this may exacerbate the genercide process. Also, some companies attempt to use marketing campaigns as a way to change the way consumers refer to their products.
[Last updated in January of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]