Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Even I think this is a mistake

I don't believe that "generic" uses of famous marks run any risk of genericide; people can easily understand that kleenex is tissue and Kleenex is a brand of tissue. But that depends on ready knowledge of what else to call the thing at issue. Without a common descriptive name (and especially when the mark at issue isn't famous), generic use can make a term generic. For example, this picture of the back of a box of cereal we bought should be used to counsel clients on what not to do:
Kamut, for all that appears, is a type of grain, just like oats and barley. An Ancient grain, no less. Marking it with a registration symbol and a dagger that says the term is used under license won't help if people have nothing else to call the stuff. (ETA: I should clarify that I think the mistake is in claiming "kamut" as a mark; there doesn't appear to be a good generic term for the type of grain, so what they need is some sort of mark like KamWonderful.)

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