For a long long time, companies have been extremely uptight, pleading people not to promote the “genericide” of their trademark. Genericide occurs when a trademark becomes the colloquial or generic description for, or synonymous with, a general class of product or service. The trademark loses its “secondary meaning” loses its secondary meaning and such loss can be caused by turning a trademark into a verb.
Tweet? (more on this later)
In the 1990s, Xerox spent thousands of dollars in a campaign to urge consumers to use “photocopy” rather than “xerox” documents. As an article in the New York Times says, “The fear was that if ‘to xerox something’ became another way of saying, ‘to photocopy something,’ the term would end up defining not what Xerox is (a company that makes a distinctive brand of copiers), but what Xerox’s products do (make photocopies). In the process, the difference between Xerox and its competitors would begin to melt away.”
But today in the digital age, the genericide of trademarks may not be such a bad thing. When your company’s name is used as a verb, it is partly a sign that “you’ve made it.” You are a dominant company in the marketplace and your influence is likely to spread. (Dictionary)
Even when I tried to use Bing as my primary search engine, I would have friends send me emails and run up to me telling me to “google” (v) a video or news article. Long behold, I was back on “Google” (n) 100% of the time.
“The risk of becoming generic is so low, and the benefits of being on the top of someone’s mind are so high,” says Rebecca Tushnet, an expert on trademark law at Georgetown University.
Nonetheless, some companies in this digital age are still concerned with genericide. In an effort to control its brand name, Twitter trademarked the term “tweet.” When users posts something on twitter they issue a “tweet.” By taking this action, Twitter has enhanced its control on the term “Twitter” and has provided a term users can use to describe what they do through Twitter’s services – “tweet.”
Personally, I understand the concerns of corporations and owners of trademarks. Nonetheless, having your trademark be used as a verb is actually a good sign for your company. Verbs are active. Verbs are precise. And sometimes, verbs are just catchy.