The first patent for an escalator-like machine was granted in 1859 for a steam-driven unit that was never built. The escalator as we know it was redesigned in 1897 by Charles Seeberger. He created the name Escalator from scala, the Latin word for steps, and elevator. Seeberger partnered with Otis Elevator Co. to produce the first commercial escalator in 1899 and won first prize at the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle in 1900. By 1950, the landmark case Haughton Elevator Co. v. Seeberger brought the exclusive rights to the word “Escalator” to an end and the loss of its capital letter.
When a brand becomes a commonly used noun or verb, trademark and brand dilution issues ensue. It becomes “genericized,” referring to things not directly related to the company’s product line, and eventually diminishes a company’s rights or ability to profit from it.
Below is a list of brand names that have similarly become genericized in the U.S. but may still be trademarked elsewhere.
Aspirin Still a Bayer trademark name for acetylsalicylic acid in about 80 countries.
Cellophane Originally a trademark of DuPont and described as “a thin, transparent sheet made of regenerated cellulose.
Dry Ice Trademarked by the Dry Ice Corporation of America in 1925. It is a solid form of carbon dioxide.
Flip Phone Originally a trademark of Motorola.
Heroin Trademarked by Friedrich Bayer & Co in 1898.
Lanolin Trademarked as the term for a preparation of water and the wax from sheep’s wool.
Laundromat Described as a coin laundry shop, the Westinghouse trademark was registered in the U.S. in the 1940s but is now expired.
Linoleum Floor covering, originally coined by Frederick Walton in 1864, and ruled as generic following a lawsuit for trademark infringement in 1878.
Teleprompter The word TelePrompTer originated in the 1950s as a trade name used by the TelePrompTer Corporation.
Trampoline Originally a trademark of the Griswold-Nissen Trampoline & Tumbling Company. Nissen explained that the name came from the Spanish word trampolín, meaning a diving board.
Videotape Originally trademarked by Ampex Corporation, an early manufacturer of audio and video tape recorders.
The following is a short list of trademarks that lost legal protection due to abandonment, non-renewal or improper issuance (the generic term predated the registration).
Dumpster Trademarked by Dempster Brothers, Inc. in 1963 and cancelled in 2015, dumpster is originally a portmanteau of the word dump and the last name Dempster.
Yo-Yo Still a Papa’s Toy Co. Ltd. trademark name for a spinning toy in Canada, but was determined that the trademark was improperly issued.
ZIP Code Originally registered as a service mark but has since expired.
Zipper Originally a trademark of B.F. Goodrich for use in rubber boots. The word “zip” is an onomatopoeia for the sound a zipper makes.