41 Brand Names People Use as Generic Terms
items we use every day, like zippers and escalators, were once brand
names. Even heroin, which no one should use any day, was a brand name.
These names are or were trademarked, but are now often used to describe
any brand in a product category.
1. Jet Ski
You might think you’re riding around on a Jet Ski, but if it’s not
made by Kawasaki Heavy Industries, it’s just a personal watercraft.
2. Bubble Wrap
Bubble Wrap is probably the greatest contribution made to our society by Sealed Air Corporation, which they rightly trademarked.
The term Onesies, referring to infant bodysuits, is owned by Gerber
Childrenswear. According to their website, the trademark is aggressively
enforced. (Twosies and Funzies also belong to Gerber.)
Jacuzzi is not only a brand of hot tubs and bathtubs; they also make mattresses and toilets.
The Crock-Pot, a brand name for the slow cooker, was originally developed as a beanery appliance.
Fluffernutter is a registered trademark of the makers of Marshmallow Fluff, Durkee-Mower, Inc.
7. Seeing Eye Dog
Technically it's only a Seeing Eye Dog if it's trained by Seeing Eye
of Morristown New Jersey. Otherwise it's a guide dog. (We're as guilty of this as anyone.)
Breathalyzer is owned
by the Indiana University Foundation. In 1931 Indiana University
professor Rolla N. Harger created the contraption—originally called the
Drunk-O-Meter—as a device to test the sobriety of drivers. Suspected
tipplers breathed into a special balloon, and Harger's device got a
reading on how much they'd had to drink. By 1936 Harger had patented his
creation, and he eventually signed the invention over to Indiana
The Zamboni is an ice resurfacer named after its inventor, Frank Zamboni.
Chapstick is a brand name of lip balm produced by Pfizer. In the
event that you find yourself enjoying this product too much, websites
dedicated to helping Chapstick addicts are available.
The perfect time to remind a friend or family member that Kleenex is a
brand name for a tissue is right when they are desperately begging you
to hand them one.
Ping Pong was trademarked in 1901 as a brand of table tennis products named for the sound the ball makes when it hits the table.
Popsicle is a registered trademark of Unilever. Like many great
things in life, the Popsicle was invented by accident. As the story
goes, one winter night in 1905, 11-year-old Frank Epperson left a
mixture of soda and water with a stick in it on his porch. Almost 20
years later, Frank began selling his creation at a lemonade stand and
the treat has been popular ever since.
Today, Unilever recommends that you call generic frozen pops on a
stick “pops,” “ice pops” or “freezer pops.” Although, depending on where
you’re from, offering someone a “pop” could get very confusing.
When Q-tips were originally released, they were called Baby Gays. The
name was changed to Q-tips—the “Q” standing for quality—in 1926.
Although they have changed hands several times since then, Unilever owns
the brand today.
Two hockey player brothers designed Rollerblade inline skates from a
pair of old roller skates in 1979. They were the only brand of inline
skates until the mid-eighties, when several other companies emerged.
16. Scotch Tape
According to legend, Scotch tape earned its name when a frustrated
customer told a 3M scientist to “take it back to your Scotch bosses and
tell them to put more adhesive on it.” Today, Scotch "Magic Tape" is
only manufactured in one place in the world: Hutchinson, Minn.
The permanent marker was invented in 1956, but the Sharpie wasn’t
introduced until 1964. Today, the products are almost synonymous with
Realtor was a trademark designed specifically to separate its users
from most other real estate agents. To use the word Realtor, you need to
follow a strict code of ethics and be a member of the National
Association of Realtors.
Tupperware is a brand that got its name from its creator, Earle Silas Tupper.
George de Mastreal invented Velcro when he discovered that burrs
stuck to matted dog fur. Today, it is the world’s most prominent brand
of hook and loop fasteners.
21. Weed Eater
Weed Eater is owned by Husqvarna Outdoor Products.
Don’t ask BIC what’s in their line of correction fluid. The exact ingredients of Wite-out are confidential.
Johnson & Johnson manufactured gauze and adhesive tape separately
until Earle Dickson had the idea to combine them to create Band-Aids
for his accident-prone wife.
Taser is a trademark of TASER International, and shouldn’t
technically be used as a verb. To be fair, “Don’t hit me with that
electroshock weapon, bro!” is probably hard to shout under duress. Bonus
fact: TASER is an acronym. It stands for "Thomas A. Swift's Electric
25. X-acto Knife
X-acto began in 1917 as a medical company that created syringes.
Eventually, they began creating surgical scalpels that evolved into
hobby knives. X-acto is a brand and a division of Elmer’s.
Dumpster is a brand name, which is true, although the word has become
largely genericized and the trademark is not widely enforced. The APA
has even dropped the recommendation to capitalize the word. The Dumpster
got its name from the Dempster Brothers Inc., who combined their name
with the word “dump” to create the Dempster Dumpster.
Novacain is actually the brand name of Procaine Hydrochloride owned by Hospira Inc.
Xerox has been trying to stop people from calling photocopying
"xeroxing" for years. "Use Xerox only as an adjective to identify our
products and services," said a 2010 print ad, "not a verb, 'to Xerox,' or a noun, 'Xeroxes.' Something to keep in mind that will help us keep it together."
Everyone knows Post-its, a trademark of 3M, were not the invention of
Romy and Michele. A very different duo is responsible—Dr. Spencer
Silver invented the adhesive in 1968 and scientist Art Fry thought up a
practical use for it in 1974. A few years later, Post-its were available
for sale (first under the name Press ‘N Peel).
30. Ouija Board
The Ouija Board was first introduced by Elijah Bond in 1890 as a
practical way to communicate with spirits, making dealing with a pesky
ghost much more convenient. Today, it is trademark of Hasbro Inc.
Plexiglas, which got its start in World War II aircraft canopies, has
since become the better-known name for acrylic glass or polymethyl
No matter how many picnics you’ve been to or how much time you spend
at the water cooler, you’ve never had a drink out of a true Styrofoam
cup. Expanded polystyrene is the generic name for the material that we
typically think of as Styrofoam. The brand is a trademark of the Dow
Chemical Company that is made in sheaths for construction projects and
is never made in the shape of a plate, cup or cooler.
If not made by the Diller Corporation, you should call it a decorative laminate. Catchy.
34, 35 & 36. Frisbee, Hula Hoop & Slip'n Slide
Frisbee is currently owned by WHAM-O. In 2010, Manley Toys Ltd.
challenged WHAM-O, arguing that the terms Frisbee, Hula Hoop and Slip’n
Slide have already become generic in the public lexicon, but it didn't
really go anywhere.
Windbreaker is a trademarked word for jackets made by Celebration Trading Inc., though this is currently in court.
Stetsons are hats made by the John B. Stetson Company. They are not a
generic term for cowboy hats. And if you use it that way, Stetson will
send you a very terse letter, as the Washington Post found out.
On their website, Microsoft suggests that unless you are using their
software, your PowerPoint is a “presentation and graphics program.”
The GED is certainly the most famous of the high school equivalency
diplomas, but this one is trademarked by the American Council on