Artificial Intelligence and Law 30 (2):199-220 (2022)

If a trademark becomes a generic term, it may be cancelled under trademark law, a process known as genericide. Typically, in genericide cases, consumer surveys are brought into evidence to establish a mark’s semantic status as generic or distinctive. Some drawbacks of surveys are cost, delay, small sample size, lack of reproducibility, and observer bias. Today, however, much discourse involving marks is online. As a potential complement to consumer surveys, therefore, we explore an artificial intelligence approach based chiefly on word embeddings: mathematical models of meaning based on distributional semantics that can be trained on texts selected for jurisdictional and temporal relevance. After identifying two main factors in mark genericness, we first offer a simple screening metric based on the ngram frequency of uncapitalized variants of a mark. We then add two word embedding metrics: one addressing contextual similarity of uncapitalized variants, and one comparing the neighborhood density of marks and known generic terms in a category. For clarity and validation, we illustrate our metrics with examples of genericized, somewhat generic, and distinctive marks such as, respectively, DUMPSTER, DOBRO, and ROLEX.
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DOI 10.1007/s10506-021-09291-7
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