The Spectrum of Distinctiveness – Generic Brands

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Richard Rimer

June 9, 2022

It’s summertime! And we all know what that means—we celebrate the spectrum of distinctiveness! The most basic rule about this celebration is that you cannot claim exclusive rights to the generic term for a product or service. I can help you identify this early and find workarounds for you.

A generic term is a word used as its dictionary meaning. It’s only fair that no on can claim a monopoly on the term “Cookie” for cookies.

Charlie came to me last month with a demand letter from a competitor complaining that Charlie was using a very similar name. His name was Smith’s Roofing and the competitor was using Jones’ Roofing. We replied that since “Roofing” was generic, the real comparison was between “Smith” and “Jones.” This was one time it was good to NOT keep up with the Jones’.

Are you using a generic brand? If so, you have no brand rights in that term. Doesn’t it concern you that your competitors could use your brand to trick your customers into visiting them? If so, call me and I’ll find a workaround for you.