10 common words you don’t know are registered trademarks

Popular product names and trends often have an origin, but we rarely think about whether a word or a combination of words actually belongs to a particular company.

When a brand becomes very well-known, what typically happens is that people start referring to products or a specific service as a description for that particular type of product or service. In such cases, and in general, companies should therefore act to point out, when their trademarks are being misused or referred to in a way that may undermine their exclusivity. If not, there is a risk that the trademark will become generic and thus a word that you cannot get exclusive rights to. This means that others, including competitors, can use it.

This has happened with several trademarks which you are probably familiar with, e.g. Escalator (in Danish elevator), Kiwi, nylon, yo-yo, and trampoline.

Below, we have listed a number of other trademarks that you may not know are owned by anyone.

1. Granola

Many of us enjoy eating Granola on our yogurt or skyr in the morning. But did you know that ”Granola” is a registered trademark? It lost its protection in the US in 2012 due to degeneration, but it remains registered in the EU.

2. Frisbee and Hula-Hoop

Most people probably don’t know that ”Frisbee” is not the generic word for that type of toy. Actually, it is a trademark owned by Wham-O Holding Limited. This company also owns the rights to the name ”Hula-Hoop” for hula hop rings. 

3. Tupperware

The word ”Tupperware” is widely used about plastic containers which can be used e.g. to store leftovers. In Denmark, there is even the term, ”Tupperware parties”, which is used about gatherings where people can buy Tupperware or exchange their tupperware-like articles with each other. Nonetheless, it is actually a protected trademark, registered by Dart Industries Inc.

4. Jet Ski

”Jet Ski” is a trademark registered by Kawasaki. The next time you listen to the danish song ”Bølgen” by Molo, the line ”Brrr, jetski – tro mig, brormand, det’ jetski” (Brrr, jet ski – believe me brother, it’s jet ski) gets quite a different meaning.

5. Post-It

At work and in other places, we have probably all used ”Post-it” once or twice. Actually, Post-It is not the name of the type of adhesive paper, we know, but a registered trademark owned by 3M Company.

6. Cellophane

Usually, cling film is referred to as cellophan or cellophane, but the word ”Cellophane” is actually a protected name owned by Futamura Chemical UK Limited.

7. Velcro

We are familiar with the kind of tape which sticks to the other side and makes a well-known sound, when the two sides are pulled apart – especially on children’s shoes. We typically call this velcro, but the word ”Velcro” is actually owned and registered by Velcro IP Holdings LLC.

8. Photoshop

Have you ever edited a picture and said that you ”photoshopped” the picture? Most likely, you did not know that ”Photoshop” is a registered trademark owned by Adobe Inc.

9. Dark ‘n Stormy

The popular drink with ginger beer and rum is typically called Dark ’n Stormy, or a variant thereof. However, Gosling Brothers owns the name ”Dark ‘n Stormy”. Therefore, restaurants are not allowed to sell the popular drink spelled exactly like this, unless they have used Gosling Ginger Beer in the drink and moreover have been allowed to use the name.

10. PanzerGlass

The Danish company Panzerglass A/S owns the rights to the name PanzerGlass for the protective screen, which a lot of us are now using on our mobile phones. They also owned the right to the name ”panserglas” (armoured glass) once, but the court in Denmark has decided that “panserglas” cannot be owned by anyone, since it is generic. It is therefore PanzerGlass spelled like this which is protected.

Would you like to protect your trademark? Please contact one of our trademark consultants in order to find out how and whether you can protect your trademark.