Use it (Properly) or Lose It
By Lloyd Jassin
The success of a trademark rests in the hands of many people. While registering a trademark is an important step in developing a brand, just using your trademark commercially is not enough. Under U.S. law for a trademark to enjoy federal and state law protection, it has to be used properly. For example, systematic misuse of a trademark can result in the term becoming generic. A generic term is an apt term, or a term that has become part of everyday language. Words such as "Aspirin," "Cellophane," and "Elevator" slipped into the public domain because of improper usage. Similarly, "Band Aid," "Kitty Litter," and "Xerox," have become -- for many -- the preferred way to refer to a group of products. When a word, or phrase, is commonly used to identify a group or class of products, it is in danger of ceasing to serve as a trademark.
Trademark Grammar 101: Correct Use
Aside from using their trademarks consistently, trademark owners must police the way their valuable marks are used by others. Here are some helpful guidelines on how to protect your trademark rights.
Use trademarks as adjectives not nouns. Therefore, a trademark should be used with a generic or common descriptive term. Ask for a Kindle ebook reader -- not a Kindle. Xerox is a trademark for document copying, not a descriptive term for photocopying. Use the word "brand" as in Pringle brand potato chips, not Pringles.
If you are a writer, as a courtesy to trademark owners everywhere, consider using trademarks with the generic terms to which they apply at least once in your writing. When a character in a novel slips into his convertible and lowers the top, the owner of the Ray-Ban trademark would prefer that he reach for his Ray-Ban sunglasses, not Ray-Bans.
Don't add an "s" or an "ing" to a trademark. Don't ask for Band-Aids. It's very wrong -- from a trademark perspective. It genericizes the brand.
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.
Never use a trademark in the plural. "Where are your Lonely Planets?" is incorrect. "Where are your Lonely Planet Travel Guides?" is the proper way to refer to the travel guide series.
Trademarks 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.