Apple's 'iPad' is the only tablet people know

Apr 08, 2012 By MAE ANDERSON , AP Business Writer
Companies trip over themselves to make their brands household names. But only a few brands become so engrained in the lexicon that they’re synonymous with the products themselves. This so-called “genericization” can be both good and bad for companies like Apple, which must balance their desire for brand recognition with their disdain for brand deterioration. From left to right are: a Jan. 20, 2011 file photo showing boxes of Kleenex tissues, a Kimberly Clark brand; Bayer aspirin tablets photographed May 25, 2004; Johnson & Johnson Band-Aid products shown Jan. 24, 2011; and a March 7, 2012 file photo,shows the new iPad. (AP Photo)

(AP) -- Apple is on the verge of doing what few others have: change the English language. When you have a boo-boo, you reach for a Band-Aid not a bandage. When you need to blow your nose, you ask for Kleenex not tissue. If you decide to look up something online, you Google instead of search for it. And if you want to buy a tablet computer, there's a good chance there's only one name you'll remember.

"For the vast majority, the idea of a tablet is really captured by the idea of an ,'" says Josh Davis, a manager at Abt Electronics in Chicago. "They gave birth to the whole category and brought it to life."

Companies trip over themselves to make their brands household names. But only a few brands become so engrained in the lexicon that they're synonymous with the products themselves. This so-called "genericization" can be both good and bad for companies like , which must balance their desire for brand recognition with their disdain for brand deterioration.

It's one of the biggest contradictions in business. Companies spend millions to create a brand. Then, they spend millions more on marketing that can have the unintended consequence of making those names so popular that they become shorthand for similar products. It's like if people start calling station wagons Bentleys. It can diminish a brand's reputation.

"There's tension between legal departments concerned about `genericide' and marketing departments concerned about sales," says Michael Atkins, a Seattle trademark attorney. "Marketing people want the brand name as widespread as possible and trademark lawyers worry ... the brand will lose all trademark significance."

It doesn't happen often. In fact, it's estimated that fewer than 5 percent of U.S. brand names become generic. Those that do typically are inventions or products that improve on what's already on the market. The brand names then become so popular that they eclipse rivals in sales, market share and in the minds' of consumers. And then they spread through the English language like the common cold in a small office.

"There's nothing that can be done to prevent it once it starts happening," says Michael Weiss, professor of linguistics at Cornell University. "There's no controlling the growth of language."

FIGHTING BACK

A company's biggest fear is that their brand name becomes so commonly used to describe a product that a judge rules that it's too "generic" to be a trademark. That means that any product - even inferior ones - can legally use the name. A brand usually is declared legally generic after a company sues another firm for using its name and the case goes to a federal court.

Drug maker Bayer lost trademarks for the names "aspirin" and "heroin" this way in the 1920s. So did B.F. Goodrich, which sued to protect its trademark of "zipper" in the 1920s after the name joined the world of common nouns. Similar cases deemed "escalator" generic in 1950, "thermos" generic in 1963 and "yo-yo" generic in 1965.

It's difficult to quantify how much revenue a company loses when its brand is deemed generic. But companies worry that it breeds confusion among consumers.

To prevent their names from becoming generic, some companies use marketing to reinforce their trademarks. For instance, after its Band-Aid brand name started becoming commonly used to refer to adhesive bandages, Johnson & Johnsons changed its jingle in ads from "I'm Stuck on Band-Aid" to "I'm Stuck on Band-Aid brand."

Kleenex uses "Kleenex brand" instead of just "Kleenex" on its packaging and in marketing and places ads to remind people Kleenex is trademarked. And the company contacts some people who use Kleenex generically to refer to tissue in order to correct them.

"We've worked very hard to keep `Kleenex' from going the route of `escalator' and `aspirin,'" says Vicki Margolis, vice president and chief counsel, intellectual property and global marketing for Kimberly-Clark, which owns Kleenex. "If we lose the trademark, people can use it with sandpaper and call that a Kleenex."

Xerox is taking a similar route. The company, which introduced the first automatic copier in the U.S. in 1959, has been on a public crusade for decades to keep its brand from becoming generic. The machine's success has led people to start using "Xerox" to refer to any copying machine, copies made from one and the act of copying.

"In the mid- to late-1970s, we ran dangerously close to Xerox becoming `genericized,'" says Barbara Basney, vice president of global advertising. "That prompted a lot of proactive action to protect our trademark."

Xerox has spent millions taking out ads aimed at educating so-called "influencers" like lawyers, journalists and entertainers about its brand name. A 2003 ad said: "When you use `Xerox' the way you use `aspirin,' we get a headache." More recently, a 2007 ad read: "If you use "Xerox" the way you use "zipper," our trademark could be left wide open."

While people still use "Xerox" generically - the Merriam-Webster dictionary lists the word as both a lower-case verb with the definition "to copy on a xerographic copier" and a trademarked noun - the brand says its campaign has been a success.

Xerox is still popular: It's ranked the 57th most valuable global brand, worth $6.4 billion, according to brand consultancy Interbrand. And perhaps most importantly, Xerox hasn't lost its trademark.

TAKING IT IN STRIDE

Sometimes companies embrace when their brands become common nouns.

Perhaps the best example of this is Google, a company created in 1998 when Alta Vista and Yahoo.com were the top online search engines. Google, which created a formula that returned more accurate results than its competitors, became so popular that people began saying "Google" to refer to a Web search, in general. Experts say Google has benefited from its name becoming a part of the lexicon.

"You don't say `Why don't I it' and go to Yahoo or Bing," says Jessica Litman, professor of copyright law at the University of Michigan Law School, referring to other search engines.

Apple also has gotten a boost from its names becoming synonymous with products. The iPod, which was the first digital music player when it came out in 2001, is still the name people use for "digital music player" or "MP3 player." And it appears Apple's iPad is headed down the same path.

For consumers like Mary Schmidt, 58, the "iPad" is generic for "tablet." Schmidt, a Baltimore marketing executive, owns an iPad and doesn't know the names of any other tablets.

"When I think of tablets, I think of an iPad," she says. "I think it's going to be the generic name. They were first."

It remains to be seen if the iPad will maintain its name domination in the tablet market. Apple declined to comment for this article.

For now, Apple Inc. has a majority of the tablet category, which includes Amazon's Kindle Fire and Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy Tablet. The iPad accounted for about 73 percent of the estimated 63.6 million tablets sold globally last year, according to research firm Gartner.

Apple's market share is likely to decline as more rivals roll out tablets. But experts say that won't necessarily diminish iPad's name recognition.

"Apple is actually pretty good at this," says Litman, the law school professor. "It's able to skate pretty close to the generics line while making it very clear the name is a trademark of the Apple version of this general category."

When the iPad debuted in 2010, some people offered up "Apple Tablet" or the "iTab" as better names. Others even suggested that the name sounded more like a feminine hygiene product than a tablet: "Get ready for Maxi pad jokes and lots of `em!" wrote tech site Gizmo at the time.

Two years later, those complaints are all but forgotten.

"At the end of the day, the product was so successful that even if it wasn't the `quote unquote' best name, it made the name synonymous with the category," says Allen Adamson, managing director at branding firm Landor.

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Lurker2358
5 / 5 (4) Apr 08, 2012
To say "they brought it to life" is ok I guess.

to say "they gave birth to it" is ridiculous, as it's nothing more than technology catching up with conception in science fiction.

Almost exact prototypes of of "pads" and "tablets" are seen in Star Trek:TNG and other science fiction series well over a decade before the first practical devices emerged.

If anything, Gene Roddenberry's estate, and the other Star Trek writers should be getting some sort of royalty, because they were among the first people to make these concepts public.

Man, 9th and 10th grader guys hanging around talking at school knew in the mid-90's from early pocket calculators and graphics calculators that Star Trek style hand held super computers would eventually be a reality. Now, in 2012, we have multi-core tablets and cell phones which are over an order of magnitudge more powerful in every statistic, as compared to a desktop PC in 1995...
Cave_Man
2.7 / 5 (10) Apr 08, 2012
When someone says, "I have diarrhea and I'm about to shit my pants" you can say, "Here I have an extra IPad you can use"

All I can say is F%^& the Ipad, it's just another worthless piece of junk bound to be usurped from its throne by another pointless piece of technology that lets all you morons in NY city think you are important and that your lives mean something, even they they dont.

Go try to grow your own food, or make friends with a homeless person or build a bird house with nothing but hand tools. Fuck this stupid age of "endumbening" there is a huge HUGE world around you that you know NOTHING ABOUT! And dont give me some science shit about how you know more than your ancestors because you sure as hell dont. More kids get hurt these days from jumping from a dangerous height or piloting several thousand pounds of metal into another solid object. Just because you know of physics doesn't mean you understand a DAMN THING. Go outside and experience life without your fucking machines
Cave_Man
2.8 / 5 (5) Apr 08, 2012
To say "they brought it to life" is ok I guess.

to say "they gave birth to it" is ridiculous, as it's nothing more than technology catching up with conception in science fiction.
...are seen in Star Trek:TNG and other science fiction series well over a decade before the first practical devices emerged.

...should be getting some sort of royalty, because they were among the first people to make these concepts public.

Man, 9th and 10th grader guys hanging around talking at school knew in the mid-90's from early pocket calculators and graphics calculators that Star Trek style hand held super computers would eventually be a reality. Now, in 2012, we have multi-core tablets and cell phones which are over an order of magnitudge more powerful in every statistic, as compared to a desktop PC in 1995...


Fascinating and sickening at the same time isn't it...

At some point you need to choose between reality as seen through the eyes you were born with...... or the eyes of a machine.
Vendicar_Decarian
Apr 08, 2012
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Kanaida
5 / 5 (3) Apr 08, 2012
I'm so tired of people getting paid off to write all this crap just to keep apple in the news, even when they haven't done anything. Everyone knows what a tablet is by now, and yes they often ask if it's an ipad sometimes but it's mostly only women and old people that barely know how to use computers. I can't wait until android tablet components on low end tablets = ipad specs, then this fad will die. Right now they're about the same or somewhat cheaper, but it's only a matter of time because of their greedy pricing.

By the way look up the DynaBook. It's basically a tablet with a physical keyboard from 1968. So yea... please do some research before writing bullshit.
stndspec
not rated yet Apr 08, 2012
Joke of an article. Seen this repeated story floating around the last couple days. One random writer publishes speculation based on personal opinion, and other writers (see above) just copy and parrot. Was going to rant about how many people I've known who wanted a pad ever since 80's Star Trek (actually called pads..) and 2001 A Space Odyssey decades before that even, but others have already acknowledged this here. Bottom line, most people (kids especially) are more knowledgeable than what is being assumed by iFan articles like this, and know that tablets, pads, tabs and slates are not all distributed by apple.

Far from Q-tip ubiquity, and never will be thankfully.
Mayday
3 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2012
Wow, are you all really that angry at a device? Think about it. I have one and find, rather than isolating me, it actually opens doors to the world. I've written two novels on one and am beginning a third. I have probably learned more about the world through this device, in a much shorter (and more enjoyable) time, than at any other period in my life. Anger and hate are rather pointless, especially against an inanimate object, don't you think?
Vendicar_Decarian
0.2 / 5 (36) Apr 08, 2012
The reason people are upset is because the iPad is a piece of average technology that has achieved status beyond it's technical merit.

Much like the Jobe Himself.

Fortunately, Apple is about to crash and burn.
sherriffwoody
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2012
Disagree Totally, Most people I know say tablet not iPad when referring to tablets. Its only idiots and the media that are obsessed with using the term iPad.
sherriffwoody
5 / 5 (1) Apr 08, 2012
Wow, are you all really that angry at a device? Think about it. I have one and find, rather than isolating me, it actually opens doors to the world. I've written two novels on one and am beginning a third. I have probably learned more about the world through this device, in a much shorter (and more enjoyable) time, than at any other period in my life. Anger and hate are rather pointless, especially against an inanimate object, don't you think?

Maybe its because people have Apple news jammed down there throats every second of the day by the media for a start. Maybe its there devices are only average but get more attention. Maybe its because there are other new developments in technology that we'd like to here about but we don't because the media is too brainwashed and biased to presenting only apple news. Need I go on, because I can (And I do use apple equipment and still think this this, its not because I'm jealous or something)
Vendicar_Decarian
0.1 / 5 (35) Apr 08, 2012
"Maybe its because people have Apple news jammed down there throats every second of the day by the media for a start." - Sherriff

Having 70 billion in cash will do that for a company.

"success" breeds "success" even when that "success" is unwarranted.

Don't like it? Awwww. Don't be part of the economic system that breeds that junk.

Was Microsoft worthy of praise for DOS?

Was IBM worthy of praise for the CGA, EGA and VGA graphics filth that it hoisted upon the world?

Is Intel worthy of praise for the ultra shitty 80x86 programming environment?

All are unworthy successes. Apple iPads is just the latest junk to come around.

Apple at least has style. Not to mention legions of ignorant fanbouys and girlz.

Feldagast
5 / 5 (2) Apr 08, 2012
Style? put a swoop on it and call it Nike. Make it out of white plastic and its an Apple. Fanboiz and Girlz are entertaining in their blind adoration of who they worship, while being taken advantage of by that very same company.
Vendicar_Decarian
0 / 5 (35) Apr 09, 2012
Apple designs tend to be elegant and minimalistic, sleek and round with a well designed user interface.

"Style? put a swoop on it and call it Nike. Make it out of white plastic and its an Apple." - FieldofGas

The Apple navigation system for it's MP3 players is quit good.

I have one that tries to emulate it and can't manage to figure out what buttons should do what.

It isn't rocket science of course. But you have to ask yourself why there are so many badly designed products, electronic and otherwise.
Mayday
1 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
I think many of you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Over the last two decades, personal computing electronics have advanced very slowly, mostly because the old giants kept the lid on innovation. On many machines, the user interface is still quite archaic, IMO. Apple pushed the user experience forward, to the dismay of many (clearly) with touch, intuitive navigation, instant on, apps, itunes, iCloud syncing, imatch(amazing quality, IMO), low-to-no heat(depending on gen), looong battery life, and optimum screen resolution.
Mayday
1 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
And I'm no fan-boy. It's clear that Apple products are very, very expensive. And they go obsolete far faster than others (depending, of course, on one's definition of obsolete ;-). But I do prefer to use the equipment that makes my life easiest and most mobile. Unfortunately, by my estimate, if one chooses Apple you should accept that you are becoming a member of a club that will cost you about $2,000 per year to stay in good standing. Maybe more with the re-designed Powerbooks coming in the fall. Okay, maybe $3,500?
SoylentGrin
5 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
This article seems more like wishful thinking on Apple's part, or one of their supporters.
Personally, I've always thought of any computer you can write on as a tablet. I had an HP Touchsmart that rotated it's screen around to write on, and I always referred to it as my tablet. "Slates" were tablets without a keyboard (like Star Trek's PADD), but now it seems they're all tablets.
There's Android tablets, Windows tablets and iPads. I don't know anyone who confuses the terms, or thinks "iPad" when someone refers to their tablet. If this writer is around technology all day, thinking every reference to a tablet is actually a reference to an iPad, they're not very good at their job.

Actually, if one only thinks of iPads as tablets, what would they be calling the Android and Windows tablets? I'm starting to think this writer isn't just obsessed with Apple, there's a whole lot of willful ignorance or dishonesty going on.
Lurker2358
not rated yet Apr 09, 2012
I don't buy "Q-tips". I buy the bargain brand of "cotton swabs" as there is no rational reason to pay twice as much for the same product.

Same thing goes for stuff like "tissues", canned goods, and cookies.

Most of the time, the cheap brand tastes just as good anyway, better in some cases, so why pay twice as much for somebody's stupid logo?
dnatwork
3 / 5 (2) Apr 09, 2012
Did you all really think the article was about the iPad? It was about the brand name of a product becoming the noun or the verb in the language for that category of thing or action.

BTW, if Apple designs crappy stuff that's overpriced, then it's odd that they dominate the markets for music players, smartphones, and tablets, and that the dominant PC operating system copied its interface ideas from Macintosh. I guess everybody who buys Apple products or copies their designs is stupid, and you are the only ones who are smart.

Or maybe other people have preferences that are different from yours. Maybe they value ease of use over unending customization and configuration. You know, a user interface so intuitive a one-year-old can make it work, rather than needing to read a manual and spend a week making it work right. Maybe they like aluminum and plastic things with just one button.

Maybe you should just stop being angry that someone else bought a product that you didn't want.
mycroftklf
not rated yet Apr 09, 2012
I'm surprised that I am the first to tell you that iPod is definitely NOT the first MP3 player by several years.