In 1982, Nancy Brinker established the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. In 1991, that organization began using a pink ribbon as a symbol of breast cancer awareness.

The Foundation didn’t register the pink ribbon as a trademark, but has registered this particular variation of the pink ribbon.

Would the generic pink ribbon have become as well-known a symbol for breast cancer awareness if the Foundation had registered it and restricted its use? Would the general idea of using a colored ribbon as a symbol for other causes have caught on?

Not registering the pink ribbon may have been the best decision the Foundation could have made if its goal was spreading its message and creating awareness. Sometimes leaving what could be intellectual property in the public domain or granting free and easy licenses to intellectual property can create awareness and a more widespread market. Adobe® was successful with that strategy when it made Acrobat® ubiquitous by giving away the reader.

I searched the U.S. Trademark Office database for ribbons used as trademarks for charitable causes and got 95 hits. That’s pretty cool.

The image at the top shows a sample of what I found. Can you match those trademarks with the causes listed below? The answers are at the bottom of this post.

  • Breast cancer (two of the logos are for this)
  • Pediatric cancer
  • Firefighters
  • Families of war veterans
  • Musculoskeletal diseases and disorders
  • Child abuse
  • Alzheimer’s and related diseases
  • Rare diseases
  • Obesity
  • Prostate cancer
  • Various charitable causes


Big shout out to Julie W. for the suggestion for this post.




Here are the answers to the quiz.

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 12.38.13 PM






Trademark Graveyard Part II

Generonyms are words that were once trademarks but became the generic word for the product or service. When a trademark becomes a generic word, its life as a trademark ends. It is said to have committed genericide.

How many of these did you know were once trademarks?

  • zipper
  • aspirin
  • escalator
  • granola
  • yo-yo
  • linoleum
  • trampoline
  • monopoly
  • power bar
  • ace bandage
  • dumpster

Do you ever say “I googled it” or “Do you have a kleenex?” or “I like to rollerblade” or “Someone got magic marker on my sleeve”? If so, you’re contributing to the possible demise of these trademarks, whose owners work very hard to make sure that the words don’t become generonyms.

  • Popsicle
  • Realtor
  • Hi-Liter
  • Kleenex
  • Baggies
  • Xerox
  • Walkman
  • Plexiglas
  • Rollerblade
  • Sharpie
  • Google
  • Crock Pot
  • Rolodex
  • Magic Markers
  • Ping Pong
  • DayGlo
  • Freon
  • Sheetrock

There are also words that people think were once trademarks but never were. I have only two of these on my list. Can you think of any others?

  • Jordan almond
  • PDA


Photo modified for use in featured image is CC0 1.0 Public Domain Dedication. Thanks to the photographer, Christian Hart, for placing his photo in the public domain. Mr. Hart does not endorse this blog, this post, or the modified use of his photo.