Generic terms are terms that designate a product and/or service and do not distinguish the source of those products and/or services. Generic trademarks contain terms that simply describe what the product and/or service is (e.g., computer or law firm), and cannot achieve trademark registration. Furthermore, generic trademarks cannot gain trademark rights even if they obtain secondary meaning through advertising because they do not distinguish the source of the goods or services because all goods or services in that category of products have the same generic name. The reasoning behind not affording generic terms with trademark protection is that a business or entrepreneur should not be given exclusive rights to use words that actually describe a product and/or service because this would allow a single individual to have a monopoly over the use of that term.
Some examples of generic terms are: laptop, pool table, snowboard, and water bottle. Each of these terms say what the product or service is, but do not actually distinguish the source. If a generic term is used within a trademark, the owner of the registered trademark will not be able to claim any exclusive rights to the generic term, and must disclaim the use of it, because generic terms can be used by anyone in commerce to describe a product and/or service.
Further, valid trademarks can become generic if consumers begin to use the trademark in ways that cause it to be used as the generic name for the product. Some examples of trademarks that have become generic enough to lose protection are THERMOS, ASPIRIN and VELCRO. A way to prevent a trademark from becoming generic, is to advertise the trademark as an adjective, and never as a verb (i.e. to Xerox) or a noun (i.e. Xeroxes).