So remarkable it’s untrademarkable: Could your brand name be so good that it destroys your brand?

‘I’m sorry to say that your product is just far too successful. And that name you chose is, well, just too popular. In short, your brand is doomed to failure.’

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a common complaint, but it does happen.

Spare a thought for Donald F. Duncan, founder of the Duncan Toys company. He purchased the Flores Yo-yo corporation in 1932, and registered ‘yo-yo’ as a trademark.

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Unfortunately, the word ‘yo-yo’ caught the popular imagination.

So, in 1965, when a rival manufacturer was able to prove in court that it had become a part of common speech, Duncan lost the rights to ‘yo-yo’ as a trademark.

The brand was damaged, and the costs of the legal action forced the Duncan family to sell the company three years later.

The brand identity and trademark had fallen victim to ‘genericide.’ It’s the process by which a trademark is judicially determined to have lost its distinctiveness.

There are similar stories around the words ‘Aspirin,’ ‘Zipper,’ ‘Escalator’ and even ‘Granola’. (Although some of these still remain trademarked in some countries.)

But then again, perhaps that successful product with a popular name isn’t such bad news after all. The four companies behind those original trademarks? Bayer, B. F. Goodrich, the Otis Elevator Company and Kellogg’s.

If you have a remarkable product, we can give it a memorable name. Email Chris to ask about our naming services.