What Is the Difference in a Trademark & Brand Monopoly?

by Chris Blank Google
Aspirin was a former trademark of the Bayer company.

Aspirin was a former trademark of the Bayer company.

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If your company sells products, one of your major goals is to increase the market share of your goods over those of your competitors. Two ways to do so is by obtaining trademark protection and achieving brand monopoly. The two concepts serve purposes that overlap, however, there are also significant differences between trademarks and brand monopoly.

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Trademarks are the legal designation for names or labels assigned by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademarks serve as identifiers for goods and services and distinguish products offered in the marketplace from similar products offered by competitors. Trademark owners may prevent other companies from using the same or overly-similar trademarks, even for goods and services that are entirely different from that associated with the registered trademark. Trademark protection continues as long as the trademark itself is in continuous use and the owner files paperwork to update the trademark as needed.

Brand Monopoly

Products that are specifically successful in the marketplace often achieve brand monopoly. Brand monopoly occurs when the average consumer nearly automatically associates a product with a particular brand name. In some instances, consumers refer to a particular brand even when referring to the same products made by a competitor company. Examples of brand name monopoly in the American marketplace are Band-Aid for adhesive bandages, Google for online searches and Xerox for photocopying. In many cases, products that enjoy brand monopoly also have an overwhelming proportion of the market share.

Losing Trademark Status

One requirement the USPTO places on trademarks is that they remain uniquely associated with a particular product, rather than an entire class of products. For example, no automobile manufacturer could trademark "The Car" as a name for a personal motor vehicle. Companies that fail to exercise diligence in using or protecting trademarks can lose them. This is the case with aspirin, zipper, yo-yo and escalator -- all of which used to be trademarks until the USTPO ruled that the names had become generic. Companies with highly successful trademarks, such as Xerox, spend substantial sums annually to protect their trademarks.

Losing Brand Monopoly

At one time, Canadian company Research in Motion held an almost complete stranglehold on the smartphone market with its Blackberry handsets. However, with the rise of the iPhone and Android technology, many former "Crackberry" addicts traded them in for Apple and Samsung phones. This is not a threat to trademark protection but a threat from Blackberry competitors marketing products that perform many of the same functions, which trademark protection does not prevent.