Generic Mark Law and Legal Definition

Generic mark refers to a symbol or word that references a type of product as opposed to a specific product brand. A word or term is said to be generic when its primary meaning to the prospective purchasers is the product or service and not the producer of the product or provider of the service. A mark that is generic cannot be protected as a trademark because it describes a whole group of goods or services and cannot distinguish one product within the group from another. Terms which were originally trademarks may over time, be adopted by the public as the common name for the product or service and become generic. This is known as genericide. Once the word or term becomes generic, the owner of the trademark or mark cannot exclude others from using it or recover damages for the use. Famous examples of such once protected but now generic marks include aspirin, escalator, thermos and cellophane.