I occasionally find myself searching for the generic version of a proprietary term; for example flying disc for toys like a Frisbee, or search rather than Google. Is there a name for the practice of using generic terms in preference to single-vendor, trademarked or otherwise proprietary terms?

(I just discovered that these terms are known as proprietary eponyms or genericized trademarks. A close-enough answer would be the name of their opposite. For a given value of opposite.)

  • I am curious to know if this is the appropriate use of productized. What made you choose this term as opposed to "a generic product"? Feb 24, 2014 at 14:17
  • "paranoia." <-- because many people don't realize that, unless you're using a trademark for some moneymaking purpose (advertising, selling movie tickets), there is no restriction on the use of said trademark. Feb 24, 2014 at 14:58
  • With all due respect, I would call it "being a stick-in-the-mud". :) Feb 24, 2014 at 15:33
  • @Carl That's not accurate. Even if you are not using a trademark for moneymaking purposes, you can still infringe if it dilutes the trademark or otherwise interferes with company branding efforts.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Feb 25, 2014 at 17:42
  • @KitFox Dilution happens all the time. There's no law against it. Feb 25, 2014 at 18:28

1 Answer 1


The phrase using [or choosing] the generic term may be the clearest way of saying it.

Trademarks are brand names for goods or services that are owned and controlled by the owners of those terms. Contrary to some of the comments, the use of trademarks without the owners permission may be a violation of rights, even when the unauthorized user is not a direct competitor doing it for moneymaking purposes. Publishers and dictionaries are often challenged when they use a brand name for goods not from that brand's owner.

Genericized trademarks are terms that used to be owned by one source, but that owner has lost ownership, most often because they did not exercise control over that mark, either in their own use or in the use by others. Classic examples of that are escalator (formerly owned by Otis), aspirin (formerly owned by Bayer), and zipper (formerly owned by Goodrich).

There are many brands that are often used in common speech in a generic way. If the owner is careful to prevent commercial usage, they may preserve their ownership and control. Kleenex, Band-aid and Xerox are all terms that are often informally used to refer to their generic equivalents, but there owners continue to protect them, and they cannot be used in commercial materials as the descriptor of the generic.

True generic terms are the basic descriptors of goods or services that were never trademarks. Facial tissue, bandage and photocopying are all basic generic terms.

The hard-core trademark purists even go so far as to suggest that, when using trademarks, you should combine the trademark with the generic term, as in LEGO® toy building blocks, or Kleenex® facial tissues.

Unfortunately, you cannot use the term genericize to refer to the use or selection of a generic term since that means to convert a trademark into a generic term.

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