Back in 2014, representatives from the Mormon church’s intellectual property agency Intellectual Reserve, Inc. (IRI) moved to trademark the word Mormon after seeing what they deemed improper usage on religious dating sites.
But can they do that? As it turns out, they can. In fact, hundreds of everyday words are protected under trademark laws.
Do you call the baggies that hold your kids’ school lunches Ziploc bags? Do you call that stuff we all love to pop when the mail comes Bubble Wrap? Then you’re using trademarked words. That’s all well and fine for conversational purposes, but such words can’t be used commercially by brands that don’t own them. They’re called genericized trademarks, and these are a few of the ones we use all the time.
1. Ziploc Bag
“Can you get me a Ziploc bag?” is a question that came out of my own face last night after dinner. Although we use it to refer to every plastic storage bag in existence, it’s actually owned by S.C. Johnson & Son.
2. Bubble Wrap
This term is actually owned by the Sealed Air Corporation, which is really a thing. I cannot in good conscience sit here and tell you to use “inflated cushioning” in its place, so be a rebel and say the trademarked version with reckless abandon.
SOP Services trademarked this bad boy back in 1931. Table tennis is the generic alternative, but who actually says table tennis? No one.
If you want to keep using the word Chapstick to describe lip balm, just know that the people behind Wyeth LLC will come for you. (Just kidding. They don’t care that much.)
All of those Food Network chefs don’t say “slow cooker” to sound fancy. They do it so they don’t get sued for calling it a Crock-Pot, which is a term owned by Sunbeam Products, Inc. Personally, I think it’s a crock of…well…you know.
Leave it to late capitalism to slap the joy of summer right out of your hands! Popsicle is owned by Conopco, Inc. Now go cry into your ice pop.
If you think you’re a Realtor and you don’t work for the National Association of Realtors, then I’m here to tell you that you’re not. Real estate agent? Yes. Everything is a lie, my friends.
Say “inline skates” like a damn fool next time you want to avoid using Tecnica Group S.p.A.’s widely used “rollerblades” and see how many side-eyes you get in response.
9. Super Hero
Say what you want about the Marvel versus DC Comics situation, but let me just add that DC owns the rights to Super Hero. Do with that information what you will. Marvel fans can opt for superhero, which is the less cool generic version.
Taser International, Inc. owns the rights to this one. You could say “electroshock weapon,” or you could just not.
The generic term for Styrofoam, which is trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company, is polystyrene foam, thus making it the best and most hilarious one of all.
Contrary to popular belief, the word Onesie was not invented by a 13-year-old who thought they were really, really clever in doing so. You can thank the actual professionals at Gerber Childrenswear LLC for that.
This is the response that those in the know tend to use by default when asked, “What in the actual hell is a genericized trademark?” Generic? Adhesive bandage. Trademark? Band-Aid. Whatever, Johnson & Johnson.
If you want to stay hip with the kids, don’t say “hook-and-loop fastener” under any circumstances. Velcro might be owned by Velcro Industries, but they can’t hold us down.
“Put anything you don’t want in the front-loader waste container,” said no one ever. The folks at Dempster Brothers, Inc. just want us to fail.
16. Hula Hoop
In order to create an alternative for Wham-O’s Hula Hoop, the universe enlisted some help from the least creative person to have ever lived. The resulting term? Toy hoop.
17. Lava Lamp
Just know what if you ever say “liquid motion lamp” to describe a Lava Lamp in any context, I will come for you. Don’t let Mathmos own you. Scream this genericized trademark from the rooftops.
18. Super Glue
This, my friends, is the mother of all generic terms: cyanoacrylate adhesive. Screw it. I’m never saying Super Glue again. You’re welcome, Super Glue Corporation.
Next time you have a headache, ask someone if they can get you some acetylsalicylic acid. When they respond with, “Aspirin?” tell them that their ass is getting sued by Bayer.
If you want to sound like your mom when she says, “the Facebook,” call an escalator a moving staircase. If nothing else, you’ll keep the Otis Elevator Company from breathing down your neck.