Don’t Google “Genericization”, Just Use This Graphic

You’ve probably heard someone use the phrase, “just google it.” At this point we don’t even think about the fact that the verb we just used is actually a brand name. History is full of examples of trademarked brand products that have become the generic word for the item or action they describe. In fact, sometimes companies lose their copyright protected rights to their trademarked name because it’s become too common of a word. When a brand loses their trademark due to the generic nature of the name, it’s known as “genericide.”

This timeline from Colorado LLC Attorney shows the process of genericization and 50 different words. The graph shows whether or not the company still owns the trademark of the name and when and if they lost it. The further back in the timeline you go, the less recognizable the words become as names. For example, there is no other word for the toy called a yo-yo, but did you know that was originally a brand name?

Travel down the timeline and you’ll recognize all kinds of common objects that you may not know were brand names until we get to today’s tech-y names like Google, Zoom, and Uber. Even though we recognize a lot of Uber alternatives like Lyft, somehow “ubering” became a commonly used verb.

Some notable words that are still protected by copyright are Post-it, rollerblade, onesie, jet ski, crock-pot, and hacky sack, but TV dinner, dumpster, trampoline, zipper have all lost their trademarks. The most current brand name to become a generic word is Zoom which skyrocketed in usage during the pandemic when virtual meetings became a necessity. There were a ton of different apps and platforms on the market but Zoom became our verb for video conferencing. This graphic highlights how some products have made a significant mark on history and the English language.

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