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In United States trademark law, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. v. Hunting World has defined the framework of trademark distinctiveness. In the case, trademarks are divided into categories which have different degrees of protection. The different categories are: fanciful, arbitrary, suggestive, generic.

A generic term is the common name for the products or services in connection with which it is used, such as "salt" when used in connection with sodium chloride.

A generic term is not capable of serving the essential trademark function of distinguishing the products or services of a business from the products or services of other businesses, and therefore cannot be afforded any legal protection. This is because there has to be some term which may generally be used by anyone—including other manufacturers—to refer to a product without using some organization's proprietary trademark.

Marks which become generic after losing distinctive character are known as genericized trademarks. Marks which are a misspelling of a generic term (e.g., the elimination of a space) do not change the generic significance of the term.

Example of generic trademarks are:

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