Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Not Even Xerox Can Xerox

My high school-age daughter had the opportunity to sing before an evaluator at the New York State School Music Association Evaluation Festival. She received a performance permit that contained the following admonition:

“Illegally duplicated music (xeroxed, etc.) may not be used at any NYSSMA Festival. Students with illegal photocopies will not be allowed to perform.”

So while copyright concerns are a big issue for this organization, apparently misuse of trademarks as generic terms is not.

Though it was a long time ago, I recall that my law school Business Torts casebook contained a copy of Xerox’s old ad, “Not Even Xerox Can Xerox”, which Xerox used to promote proper use of its trademark and fight genericide. Back in the day, Xerox was by far the most well-know copier brand, leased by offices all over. In this day and age, now that most people have a copier at home (as part of a multifunction printer) and it could be a Canon, HP, Brother, Epson or other brand, I think the younger folk are not so likely to refer to copying as “Xeroxing”. It poses an interesting quandary: Xerox may be winning the genericide war but they are no longer dominating the competition. Which is preferable?

December 5, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. […] the generic business category or product, e.g.  KLEENEX tissue.  It can be hard enough to keep consumers from doing this.  Johnson & Johnson, for example, struggles with it all the time – they even had to […]

    Pingback by Best Buy’s Attempted Generisuicide « Trademark Musings | December 10, 2009 | Reply

  2. Of course it would be preferable to dominate the competition.

    The problem is, if they protect the name too much they will fade into the ways of those companies that spark the statement ‘Oh, I didn’t know ______ was still around.’ I am constantly surprised as I travel the country to find random stores, etc., that I’d thought had long since been defunct. Who knew Bob’s Big Boy was still around? I even saw a Woolworth’s long after I thought it had disappeared from the planet. Now that I understand bankruptcies, I understand that many of these companies probably filed, sold off or closed the majority of their stores, fired a bunch of employees and settled into a nice quiet retirement having enjoyed a youthful dominance.

    Anyway, my thought (or question)- are they going to redesign, recreate, energize and fight, or will they settle in with elegance for a smooth ride into the sunset reminiscing the glory days?

    If the genericide was successful and I walked into Staples and saw Xerox while looking for a copy machine, I would consider the Xerox, because I think I remember something in the 80’s about xeroxing with Xerox. The problem is that I do not see them at Staples. I can not remember the last time I saw Xerox’s name on a product. Mostly, I’m in the small business/at home user section looking at multi-functions or printers. From there and Craigslist, I know the names Canon, Brother, Epson, and Lexmark off the top of my head. When I have an opportunity to influence a larger buy by a company that needs a copier, I more readily recognize other companies whose names I see every time I walk into Staples. That means that Xerox doesnt make products I’m interested in, or they are not marketing them right.

    So, option one is to market to me. I’m of a demographic that would surely increase their revenue. If they are not making these products, option one would be to make them. I mean what better way to kill the copying of a document being called a xerox than having them flood the market with printers, faxes, cars. Option two, then would be to market to me.

    If they chose one and/two, the genericide should continue.

    If not, Xerox should let a xerox be a xerox. Hell, maybe everyone walking around calling a xerox a xerox would make people think of Xerox.

    Comment by m wilks | December 10, 2009 | Reply

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