Knowing whether a generally used name is proprietary is important. Considerable money has been spent, and many lawsuits have been entered into, to enforce the recognition of trade names! The problem is that when a trademarked product comes into general use, the public often loses touch with the word's commercial origins (Table 8.1). Proper names or their derivatives begin to function as common nouns, and for a period of time both styles exist side by side. Eventually, to the dismay of the company holding the trademark on the product, the product name or a variant of it may become an English word in its own right. (Aspirin, nylon, zipper, and fiberglass are examples of such lost battles.)
Don't slip into the pitfall of using trade names as though they were synonyms for generic products or processes. Usually, a quick perusal of the packaging will reveal a product's status.
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