"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island." - Walt Disney

Monday, February 7, 2011

Trademarked Words in Writing

Did your book’s character play with Silly Putty or modeling clay? Does his father sit in a La-Z-Boy or a reclining chair? Does his mother use Febreze or a fabric deodorizer?
Many of the terms we use are actually trademarked brand names. They have become common household terms we use interchangeably with their generic counterparts.
Trademarked words may not be completely off-limits for writers, but some are legally restricted. Below is a list of 30 words and their generic counterparts. The 30 words on the left are still legally trademarked and cannot be used by competitors. These terms are actively enforced by their trademark owners.

Astro Turf                           Artificial Turf
Band-Aid                            Adhesive Bandage
Bubble Wrap                      Inflated Cushioning
Clorox                                  Bleach
ChapStick                            Lip Balm
Cheez Whiz                        Processed cheese spread
Coke                                      Cola, Soft Drink, Pop, Soda
Crock-Pot                            Slow Cooker
Dumpster                            Front loader waste container
Frisbee                                 Flying Disc
Glad Wrap                           Cling-film
Google                                 Search Engine
Hoover                                 Vacuum Cleaner
Hula Hoop                           Toy Hoop
Jacuzzi                                  Hot Tub
Jeep                                      Compact Sport Utility Vehicle
Jell-O                                     Gelatin, Pudding
Kleenex                                Facial Tissue
Polaroid                               Instant Film
Post-its                                 Sticky Notes
Q-tips                                    Cotton Swabs
Rollerblade                         Inline Skates
Saran Wrap                         Plastic Wrap, Cling Film
Sharpie                                 Permanent Marker
Styrofoam                           Extruded Polystyrene Foam
Taser                                     Electroshock Weapon
Vaseline                               Petroleum Jelly
Velcro                                   Hook-and-Loop Fastener
Windex                                 Glass and Surface Cleaner
Xerox                                    Photocopier

This is only a small sample of trademarks many of us use in a generic connotation. Writing guides such as the AP Stylebook advise writers to "use a generic equivalent unless the trademark is essential to the story."
 If you want a more detailed and up-to-date list of trademarked words and phrases, you can visit the International Trademark Association at www.inta.org.  You can also use Google, I mean an internet search engine to query further examples.

4 comments:

Angela Felsted said...

Now I'm feeling stressed. Bleach, seriously?

Kari Marie said...

This is an interesting post. I've been wondering about this myself. Thanks!

Sylvia Ney said...

Angela - you can use the word "bleach" without any problems, but Clorox is a trademarked term. While most companies won't come after you for using their trademark names, you must remember to be careful you are not portraying them in a negative light. They will consider this not only an "infringement", but possibly even libelous.

Sherry Cahill said...

Good information. I had learned this somewhere along the way, but didn't know any specifics. Cool post.