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Article · 15.06.2021

Preventing trademark degeneration

If you discover that customers, competitors, media or others are using your trademark to describe a certain type of product, there is a risk that your trademark is about to degenerate.

Businesses often find themselves in this situation if they have introduced a new product on the market or if they hold a leading market position. Initially, businesses will often see it as a sign of success that their trademark has become synonymous with their product.

However, if you allow other businesses to use your trademark, you risk eventually losing your trademark right altogether. Obviously, this is an unfortunate situation, as you have spent many resources on building a brand.

Many businesses have experienced trademark degeneration. For example, ‘radiator’, ‘nylon’ and ‘linoleum’ were previously trademarks. Now, they are generic terms and may be used for marketing purposes by anyone.

While it is important to register your trademarks, it is equally important to protect your investment by not allowing your trademarks to degenerate.

How do you prevent trademark degeneration?

We have put together a set of guidelines which may help you to prevent trademark degeneration:

  • Always use your trademark as a name: You should always write your trademark with an initial capital letter and never use the trademark as a noun or a verb.
  • Use the ® and TM symbols. ® is used after trademarks that have already been registered (or for which an application for registration has been filed). TM is used after unregistered trademarks that are characteristic of your business, your products or your services.
  • Use your trademark in combination with the generic term for the product. If you launch a new product on the market, you should always find both a generic name for the product and a trademark. Always use the two in combination. Always use the trademark as a trademark only.
  • When choosing your trademark, you should consider whether others might be inclined to use the trademark to describe the product. More often than not, this is what happens with brief and simple trademarks that are easy to pronounce and designate products with very long and complex names.
  • Review your internal and external communication and make any necessary changes.
  • Always respond to infringement. Otherwise, you will be considered to accept the degeneration of your trademark – even if you have followed all of the above advice.
  • Make sure to communicate these guidelines to your entire organisation.
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