A trademark quiz for PR professionals

AP Style devotees know colloquial names can be intellectual property—and a generic term should be used instead. Can you guess the trademark from its generic replacement?

Pop quiz: What do the following terms have in common?

  • escalator
  • kerosene
  • corn flakes
  • yo-yo

These terms were each coined as a brand name, but were later appropriated by consumers as the generic name for the product. According to the International Trademark Association, “these ‘ghost-Marks’ serve as historic and costly reminders of what can happen to marks if the public comes to regard a brand name as the generic name of a product.”

If you went through journalism school or have spent any time with the AP Stylebook, you’re familiar with the style rules that call for the use of a generic term “unless the trademarked term is essential to the story.” For example, instead of “Levi’s” use “jeans.”

Though style guides do include examples of trademark names and their generic equivalents, the list of protected trademark names is long and puzzling.

Here is another pop quiz and an opportunity to learn about some other trademark names. Can you guess the protected trademark names for these generic terms?

(Click to check your answers.)

How did you do, PR Daily readers? Did any of these stump you?

Laura Hale Brockway is a writer and editor from Austin, Texas. Read more of her posts on writing, editing, and style (writing style, not fashion) on PR Daily and at impertinentremarks.com.

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