When you make a photocopy, do you call it making a Xerox? When you need to blow your nose, do you grab a Kleenex? And when you cut yourself, do you reach for a Band-Aid? You may not realize it, but each of those is a specific trademarked brand. And there are plenty of terms in the food world that you may not realize are in the same boat.
When a product is brought to market, its manufacturer trademarks it; that is, they register its name in order to prevent another company from unauthorized usage, called trademark infringement. We’re sure you’ve encountered knockoffs of Rolex watches and Fendi purses; those counterfeit goods are illegally infringing on the companies’ trademarks. While it’s not illegal for you to call an adhesive bandage a Band-Aid even if it’s manufactured by a different company, that company obviously can’t just go ahead and call its own adhesive bandage a Band-Aid.
Over time, when a product is so popular that the brand name essentially becomes synonymous with the product itself, that’s called trademark erosion, and while it might sound good for the brand to become a household name, companies actually work hard to prevent it; once a brand becomes a common name it essentially becomes genericized, it can no longer be registered. Many common terms became genericized so long ago that you probably had no idea that they were once trademarked brand names; these include escalator, laundromat, heroin, zipper, and trampoline. This is all obviously rather complicated.
In the food world, there are plenty of genericized trademarks both protected and unprotected, as well as non-genericized brands that you most likely never even realized were trademarked in the first place. Read on to learn about 10 food names that are (or once were) registered trademarks of specific brands.
Broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale (called gai lan), and was developed in 1993 by the Sakata Seed Company of Yokohama, Japan. It was brought to the United States in 1998 by Mann Produce Company, who trademarked the term broccolini. Around the world, it’s also called baby broccoli, asparation, bimi, tenderstem broccoli, and broccoletti.
While today butterscotch is made by heating brown sugar and butter and is as generic a term as caramel, the original butterscotch recipe called for butter, sugar, and treacle, and was invented in 1817 by the Parkinson’s Doncaster Butterscotch Company. It was sold under the brand name of Doncaster Butterscotch. Parkinson’s was still in business until just a few years ago, but the term butterscotch became genericized long ago.