May 28, 2014

Speedos, Jeeps, and Generic Marks in Europe

by Guest Blogger

Note: As I am still on vacation, I must once again thank Bill Ferrell for editing and posting this article for me. While I can never truly repay his kindness, I hope the thousands of dollars of European luxury goods I have purchased for him will reflect the deep gratitude and appreciation I feel for his unwavering friendship in my time of need.

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The gorgeous Jeep Wrangler Trademarkology's Bill Ferrell designed and built.[/caption]

As I have been traveling through Europe, the generic use of two trademarks has been blatant. Speedos and Jeeps are everywhere. So are similar products being sold or advertised as Speedos and Jeeps. Ah, yes, genericide, a topic Bill and Mari-Elise have written about before here and here. As Mari-Elise previously explained, "Generic terms are terms that the relevant purchasing public understands primarily as the common or class name for the goods or services and are, by definition, incapable of indicating a particular source of the goods or services." In Europe, it is clear Speedo and Jeep fall into this category. Let me elaborate.

We all know and love or hate Speedo, the brand that specializes in the short, tight swimsuit that leaves little to the imagination. A few days at the beach in Europe reveals that our friends across the pond are far more fond of Speedo than the folks back home in 'Merica. Of course, short, tight swimsuits are sold throughout Europe by many different brands, but everyone calls them Speedos and every store near the beach selling them has a sign advertising Speedos regardless of the brand of swimsuit the store is actually selling. Unlike our next example, this genericide is not unique to Europe. Most Americans probably refer to all short, tight male swimsuits of a certain cut as "Speedos."

Jeep, on the other hand, presents a uniquely European form of generification. In working to rent cars and book tours in Europe, I discovered that nearly every sport utility vehicle is referred to as a Jeep. While the generic term "jeep" with a lowercase "j" is sometimes used in the States to refer to an all-terrain vehicle, there is no effort (so far as I have seen) to distinguish between the two terms in Europe. SUVs are advertised as Jeeps with a capital "J" regardless of whether they are actual Jeep-brand SUVs or some similar vehicle manufactured by a different brand.

While some things are different in Europe, like the quantity of Speedos found on the beach, some things are quite the same, like the risk of your brand's trademarks being genericized.

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide online trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to begin the process of protecting your brand name with a federally registered trademark.