Or, How Careless Use Can Lead to Abandonment
Once a trademark has been registered, it must be maintained or it will wither away and cease to function as a trademark. To many that simply means periodic renewal filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (assuming you've registered it). However, timely renewal filings are not enough. Trademark owners must also guard against genericide - the death of their trademark through misuse. If the public comes to regard a trademark as an apt term for the goods and services it is associated with, it is said the mark has become generic. A generic term cannot serve as a trademark. Words such as "aspirin" and "cellophane" were once strong brand names. However, they slipped into the public domain because of trademark misuse. Similarly, if a trademark owner grants someone permission to use their trademark, but does not reserve the right to approve the manner of its use, that trademark can lose its branding significance.
Below are five rules or guidelines trademark owners must follow if they wish to avoid trademark abandonment and forfeiture.
Rule 1: Avoid Trademark Misuse
Never use a trademark as a noun or a verb. Like the rules of grammar, there are rules governing the use of trademarks. For example, a trademark must always be used as an adjective followed by a noun. This principle requires that the trademark come before the common descriptive term for the goods. If you say, "I lent John my Kindle," you have violated this principle. You can correct this violation by saying "I lent John my Kindle ebook reader." Xerox spends large sums on educational advertising to remind people that Xerox is a trademark for document copying, not a descriptive term for photocopying. Since a trademark needs a noun, you can position the word "brand" after the trademark. An example of this is Pringle brand potato chips. Don't add an "s" or an "ing" to your trademark. If you come across a use that violates these rule, send them a polite letter correcting their trademark grammar. Never use a trademark in the plural. "Proud publisher of Frommers" is incorrect. "Publishers of the Frommer's Travel Guides" is the proper way to refer to this well-known travel guide series. Never use a trademark as a verb. "Red Hat your entire network" is bad. "Set up your entire network using the Red Hat Linux operating system" is good.
Rule 2: Your Trademark Must "Stand Out"
Since trademarks are used to distinguish products and services from one another, it is important to set trademarks apart from the text adjacent to it. Distinguish trademarks online and in print by using an initial capital letter, or setting off the entire mark in CAPS or in bold, or by using italics or "quotes" to make the word or phrase stand out.