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Three Essential Elements of a Genericness Survey

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So, you need a genericness survey, but you don’t know where to begin? This article explains the process for measuring genericness. To start with, there are two main types of genericness surveys: a Teflon survey, and a Thermos survey.The Thermos survey has its merits, and it might be appropriate in some cases. However, the Teflon survey is more commonly used in genericness cases, and is the focus of this article. Here are the three essential elements of conducting a Teflon genericness survey.


Teflon Survey Step 1: Provide Definitions and Examples

After screening for qualified respondents, the genericness survey may begin. The start of the survey should explain to respondents what is meant by the terms “common or generic name” and “brand name.”


Remember, respondents are neither marketers nor lawyers, and they probably don’t know the definitions of these terms – at least not in the way that we intend them in genericness surveys. Therefore, the survey starts by providing clear definitions of the terms “common or generic name” and “brand name.”


The start of the survey also provides examples of each, most likely related to the product or service category of interest. For instance, if the case involves a term used in the dog food category (e.g., “Wilderness”), you might provide the name “Purina” as an example of a brand name, and “kibble” as an example of a common or generic term. Two examples of each term seem to be sufficient to educate respondents about the meaning of each term.


Teflon Survey Step 2: Conduct a Mini Test

After defining the terms and providing examples, the survey would verify that respondents understand the terms “common or generic name” and “brand name.” A first measure is to directly ask respondents if they believe they understand the difference between the two terms. Terminate respondents who reply that they do not understand the difference or are not sure.


Next, the survey would test that respondents who claim to understand the difference really do know it. This can be measured by displaying either a common or generic name (e.g., “organic”) or a brand name (e.g., “Eukanuba”), and asking respondents to classify the name appropriately. Respondents who select the wrong answer or reply that they don’t know would be terminated.


Finally, the survey would display an example of the other type of name, and ask respondents to classify it. Again, respondents who are wrong or unsure would be terminated. Respondents would only be allowed to proceed to the main genericness survey if they claim to understand the difference between a “common or generic name” and a “brand name,” and if they correctly classify two terms as either a common or generic name or as a brand name.


Teflon Survey Step 3: Conduct the Main Genericness Survey

Finally, the survey measures the genericness of the name at issue (e.g., “Wilderness”). Just like in the mini test, the survey would display the name, and ask respondents to classify it as either a common or generic name, or as a brand name. (The survey would usually provide a “don’t know” option, as well.)


Additionally, the survey would display several other names relevant to the category, or closely related to it, and ask respondents to classify each term. Genericness surveys often test 6 to 8 additional terms, and display and measure each individually. These 6 to 8 terms include a mix of common or generic names and brand names. In the dog food example, the survey might test common names such as “grain-free” and “healthy,” and brand names such as “Pedigree” and “Blue Buffalo.”


In addition to terms from the same category, the survey might also test terms from related categories, such as “leash” or “Tuffy” (a brand of durable dog toys). These additional terms serve as controls and provide comparison measures for the results of the genericness survey.


Conduct Your Genericness Survey

These are the three essential steps of the Teflon format, but there are many more details to consider in any genericness survey. For assistance, contact the survey experts at MMR Strategy Group.


Dr. Justing Anderson, Vice President
Dr. Justin Anderson
Vice President
MMR Strategy Group

© Copyright MMR Strategy Group, May, 2012. All rights reserved.