We’re not talking the foamed footwear Crocs® that Randall Hull wrote about in his What a Croc! post from a couple of weeks ago. Instead, we’re talking slow cookers — on this snow-capped Valentine’s Day in the Twin Cities.

Every once in a while a stroll down the grocery store aisle leaves me surprised when I spot a federal registration symbol next to a word that I thought was a generic term for the goods or services in question. Today was such a day, when I noticed Sunbeam’s Crock-Pot® The Original Slow Cooker appliance on the store shelf. Apparently I’m not alone in my surprise at the trademark status, given Wikipedia’s acknowledgment that Crock-Pot is a trademark "often used generically in the USA" — and Slo-Cooker is a trademark "often used generically in the UK."

It appears the Crock-Pot® trademark was originally registered back in 1972, and a couple of years ago federally-registered protection for the trademark was extended into a number of different classes of goods at the U.S. Trademark Office for a variety of different products, including food, and some cooking accessories. Last June, this logo was federally registered by Sunbeam, but it specifically disclaimed any exclusive rights in the descriptive phrase "The Original Slow Cooker":

I’m left wondering whether this is like the Rollerblade example, where it took the owner of the Rollerblade brand an entire decade to battle genericide by developing a commercially acceptable generic term (in-line skates) to couple with the brand.

Here are a few questions for marketing types to ponder and discuss: If you’re Sunbeam, owner of the federally-registered Crock-Pot® trademark, do you care if retailers and your direct competitors call their competing products a Crock-Pot too? What about Search Engines selling Crock-Pot as a keyword, do you care about that? If so, how much do you care? Is it important enough to spend dollars on stopping these kinds of actions?

Just so no one is left out, here, for you trademark types out there, what steps would you take to avoid having the Crock-Pot® trademark invalidated on genericness grounds?

Same drill for the Bundt® trademark that Dan wrote about prior to the holidays.