Xerox Corp. warns Filipinos: ‘Xerox’ is a trademarked brand, not a verb

September 20, 2019 - 10:38 AM
stack of papers
Fuji Xerox Co., a Japan-based firm, issued a classified ad notifying the public that "xerox" is a trademarked noun, and not a verb. Some say the warning came too late.

Not enough people know that the word “Xerox” is actually a brand name and not a verb that is a synonym of “photocopying.”

Fuji Xerox Corporation, which builds and sells xerographic technology in the world, reminded the public that its name “Xerox” is a registered and trademarked brand name and not a common noun.

A Reddit user made a screenshot of it and shared it on subreddit Philippines on September 19. It prompted discussions on how brand names became generic or household nouns over time due to everyday usage.

Indeed, lol… reading my morning newspaper from Philippines

Xerox’ notice was published in the classified ads section of a Manila-based newspaper.

“Xerox, it’s not just another word for copy. Xerox is a registered trademark protected by law. Xerox is a globally recognized registered trademark and its unauthorized use without permission of the trademark holder, whether as a trademark or trade name, is expressly forbidden by law,” it read.

“As a registered trademark, Xerox is also not a verb or common noun and should therefore not be used to describe copying or copy services in general. So please don’t use the word ‘xerox’ as another for ‘copy,’” it added.

The word had been a part of everyday or vernacular language to describe the act of copying or using the Xerox machine for years.

In Filipino, the term was just spelled as “seroks” but it basically refers the same.

Such was raised by users in the comments section and said that the company’s reminder is years too late.

Comment to xerox reddit post
Screenshot by Interaksyon

Others noted on other foreign brand names such as Dairy Crème, Downy, Coke and Pampers that Filipinos used to refer to the products themselves.

Comment to xerox reddit post2
Screenshot by Interaksyon

But Merriam-Webster has already identified xerox as a verb which means “to copy on a xerographic copier” and as a trademarked noun to describe the xerographic copier.

Xerox is the name of the company that sells xerographic or photocopying machines with the label or brand name of its namesake. Since it was first introduced in 1938, the firm had been fighting off genericization or the careless usage of the term despite the trademark.

When trademarks become household names

Losing the trademark value is a reason why global companies such as Xerox avoid becoming household names or common nouns, according to an article from The New York Times.

“When something becomes so pervasive in everyday society as a result of its own fame, there’s an argument that it no longer represents the brand, it almost represents the action. So as a result of that, in trademark law, you cannot trademark things that are descriptive or generic in nature,” intellectual lawyer Michael Cohen said.

This is the downside when a product becomes too popular, Cohen noted, and soon it will be used as an action in everyday usage.

“Over time, a brand can be so famous and so ubiquitous that people associate that with the action. In everyday usage, people start using that term,” he said.

While popularity often equates to revenues, it is also damaging to intellectual property rights of big corporations that own them.