“Can you pass me a KLEENEX?”, “I have to buy SCOTCH”, “dry it with the SCOTTEX”!
We often use these phrases without dwelling on the fact that the KLEENEX is the veiled paper handkerchief, the SCOTCH is the adhesive tape, and the SCOTTEX is the blotting paper.
Why don’t we use actual names? Simply we have always called them that way.
What is the reason why this happens?
These are some questions I asked myself during a conversation with friends, and I was incredibly intrigued. I discovered these examples fall into the so-called “vulgarization of the trademark” category.
The “vulgarization of the trademark” arises when the brand name - or the product’s commercial name - is transformed into a common name that identifies the product or its category.
Some examples, such as SCOTCH, fall into the “vulgarization of the trademark” category. In Italy, this is the name by which we indicate the transparent cellophane adhesive tape. Another example, widespread throughout the world, is the POST-IT (the yellow sticky notes). These items, used mainly in the stationery industry, are trademarks created by the 3M company, not actual names.
Belonging to the Kimberly-Clark multinational, the SCOTTEX brand has become a term in everyday use to indicate any type of blotting paper, not just that of the homonymous brand.
The original K-WAY is a jacket used to protect us from the rain. It can be folded after use, taking up little space. This word, now used to mean any raincoat, comes from the French company K-WAY founded in 1965 by Léon-Claude Duhamel.
POLAROID was a photographic process obtained from a particular film and camera. It was invented by Edwin Land in 1932. Today this term is used to mean both a camera and instant photography.
The hydromassage bathtub, the JACUZZI par excellence, is a company created by the Jacuzzi Brothers in California in 1915. Through the jets and a hydromassage system, the bathtub takes inspiration from the Roman baths. The JACUZZI is now counted among the luxury furnishings.
RIMMEL is an English cosmetics company founded by Eugene Rimmel in England in 1834.
Nowadays, it is synonymous with mascara, and it is a fluid applied to the eyelashes used in the makeup world.
Born in 1904, the THERMOS brand was the first company to develop consumer products using vacuum insulation. Almost a miraculous object, the THERMOS keeps drinks and food hot in winter and cool in summer, a “must have” especially for picnics and long walks.
VELCRO is a trademark of a British company that manufactures mechanically based fastening products. Today, Velcro is commonly used to refer to any hook and loop fastener.
The MOKA, the coffee maker conceived by Bialetti in 1933, has become the generic term to identify any other coffee maker of its kind or brand.
The FRIDGE, an abbreviation of the refrigerator, derives from the Frigidaire brand. This expression became a generic term to indicate any type of refrigerator.
The category also includes brands of technological products. For example, the term GOOGLATE or “do a Google search”. This term refers to searching the Internet using engines other than Google. Another example is iPAD, often used to indicate a generic tablet even if it does not belong to the Apple brand.
Parallel to the “vulgarization of the trademark” there are “eponymous brands”. This phenomenon is born when a brand takes a person’s name - the company’s founder or creator - to indicate the product itself. Examples such as “I bought an ARMANI”, “Tonight I will wear a DOLCE”, meaning an item of clothing, “My husband bought me a GUCCI”, talking about a bag, and “I bought a FORD” chatting about cars.
There are many possible legal actions to protect trademarks. Still, no one can prevent them from becoming commonly used terms, especially in an age where we try to abbreviate every word, sometimes using terms not part of our mother tongue.