Apple's 'iPad' is the Only Tablet People Know

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The article describes that the biggest concern amongst companies and their business success is the so-called genericization of one of their products. Apple is concerned that the iPad is to become synonymous with what we have come to know as the tablet. Anderson describes how our society has come to understand business names with the products they sell more than the product. "When you have a boo-boo, you reach for a Band-Aid, not a bandage. When you need to blow your nose, you ask for Kleenex not tissue. If you decide to look up something online, you Google instead of search for it," Anderson notes. The concern is that brand reputation is diminished when there is a genericization that takes place. A product should be unique and uniquely named by a company and therefore should not become so common that it loses its business flavor and marketability in the consumer arena. The article points out that this is not a common occurrence among brands and their products but does happen and has happened to several different products. 

One way that companies such as Apple and others can prevent the genericization from taking place is to reinforce their trademarks. Xerox is taking a similar road as Apple is by ensuring that the copy machine does not become synonymous with the name Xerox. Other companies such as Johnson & Johnson and Kleenex have been plagued by the generic factor with Johnson & Johnson having to change their ad jingles and Kleenex having to use "Kleenex brand" instead of "Kleenex" as a way of distinguishing the intricacies of their tissues. Even Bayer has lost its trademarks for aspirin because of the commonality of such a term.  Yet, in spite of this important task that companies have to perform to keep their products from becoming too generic, some companies such as Google have taken pleasure and embrace the fact that their brands have become common names, according to Anderson. Is it then not so bad for the tablet to become synonymous with the iPad? A marketing executive, Mary Schmidt adds that "when I think of tablets, I think of an iPad. I think it's going to be the generic name. They were first." The onus is on companies like Apple and others to ensure their trademarks are tightly in place and that the commonality of names like tablet is not confused with the iPad product in spite of their popularity and that they were first on the scene. 

The definition of a trademark is "a distinctive sign which identifies certain goods or services as those produced or provided by a specific person or enterprise. Trademarks help consumers identify and purchase a product or service because of its nature and quality, indicated by its unique trademark." A trademark essentially provides protection to the owner of the mark by ensuring there is an exclusive right to use it to identify the particular goods or services or to authorize another to use it in return for payment ("Trademarks Gateway"). Given the definition of a trademark, certain words would not be viable for a lawsuit if another company uses them. An example of this is aspirin. According to Anderson, "a brand usually is declared legally generic after a company sues another firm for using its name and the case goes to a federal court." This is what happened with aspirin thus a lawsuit could not come from another company using the word since it was been deemed generic. Contrastingly, Apple and Xerox, are hoping to prevent federal courts from making the iPad and Xerox generic given the repercussions of this. While consumers have become familiar with the names iPad and Xerox, by making those names generic, the definition of a trademark is ignored therefore rendering the trademark process worthless and not protecting any future inventions or products that a company or consumer may create.

Work Cited

"Trademarks Gateway." World Intellectual Property Organization, 2013, http://www.wipo.int/trademarks/en/. Accessed 11 Feb. 2013.