Remember how important it is to stay on the right side of the suggestive/descriptive line when it comes to making proper use of a brand name?

We have cautioned about the danger of “taking a suggestive name, mark, or tag-line, and using it descriptively in a sentence on labels, packaging, ad copy, or the Internet,”

Losing a trademark challenge is bad news, right? It’s costly, it’s embarrassing, and it can damage a brand’s reputation.

And yet in one well-known instance, losing a trademark challenge didn’t hurt a brand at all. In fact, it ensured the brand’s immortality.

The product name I’m thinking of existed for just three years in the 1990s before the death-dealing trademark challenge. The company name survived in slightly altered form; the product name was replaced by a series of successor names.

Now, more than eleven years after that legal defeat, the original product name is still used, erroneously but ubiquitously, to describe an entire class of products—products that themselves exist mostly as fading memories.

What’s the product name?

I’ll give you one more hint: it’s a technology brand.

Answer after the jump.


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My last post explored the fine — but critically important — line, between suggestive and descriptive naming styles, here. As you will recall, marketers and naming gurus who select from the former category are rewarded with immediate rights; selecting from the latter category leaves one in limbo until acquired distinctiveness can be proven, if