iPad is the only tablet brand many consumers know

In two years, the iPad has become a household name. Now it may be turning into a generic term for all tablet products, says a report by the AP's Mae Anderson.

The "genericization" of brand names happens over and over again, but it only affects a small fraction of all brands (estimated at less than 5% in the US). Band-Aid, Thermos, Kleenex, Yo-Yo and aspirin all started out as brand names that have (to a greater or lesser degree) become generic terms for the products they identify. For most consumers, "iPad" describes all tablets the same way "Xerox" refers to any photocopier or "Googling" covers off on all Internet search.

Some argue that being thought of as a generic product will weaken a brand, and in fact brands like Kleenex and Xerox spend a lot of money and effort fighting against the genericization of their trademarks. But copyright law professor Jessica Litman of the University of Michigan points out that Apple is "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."

Nilay Patel of The Verge disagrees vehemently, saying on Twitter that Apple's defense of the iPad brand is far too strong to allow for any trademark dilution that would lead to generic status. He says that the AP's story "badly distorts" trademark law.

Edging a bit towards generic status could work in Apple's favor as competition between the iPad and Android tablets like the Kindle Fire heat up. Potential customers looking for a tablet will head to the store and may ask for an iPad (even if they mean "tablet" in the general sense). Instead of being shown several different tablets, the customer will be taken directly to the iPads and likely will walk away with the Apple device.

[Via Seattle PI]