Sunday, February 21, 2010

Xerox, Kleenex and Zamboni?

The Zamboni ice resurfacing machines is one of the added attractions of going to a hockey game or to the ice rink. Watching this elegant machine drive across the ice placing a new sheer surface on the ice is one of the highlights. I've been at events where the fans even cheer the Zamboni driver when the machine makes its way out of its game time hiding place.

The Zamboni Company now finds itself in the same situation as Xerox (a photocopier) and Kleenex (a tissue) before it. The company needs to work very hard to keep its trademarked product name from being turned into a noun. When that happens the IP world calls it trademark dilution. The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have got the people at Zamboni Company on the job.

Apparently the battery operated ice resurfacing machines built by the Zamboni Company's Canadian competitor, Resurfice Corp. failed to perform at the level of quality for olympic level elite competition. When there were delays in the events because of problems, the media reported it as being caused by the Zamboni rather than by saying it was caused by the ice resurfacing machines.'s article on the subject clarifies the situation as did articles in other media outlets. The article also reported on Charles Schulz's love of the Zamboni Machine which began in 1980. The Zamboni site includes some of the Peanuts cartoons featuring its product.

The National Hockey League even sells team machine pins and die cast models of them machines. As a die hard pin collector I'm disappointed the the Washington Capitals don't have their own Zamboni pin on their online store web site.

If you are a gamer, you can even drive the Zamboni in your NHL 2K9 game which features the Zamboni Achievement challenge that challenges you to clear the ice before the time runs out.

Check out Mr. Zamboni's early patent, 2,763,939 issued in September of 1956.

The bottom line, from an intellectual property perspective, it's bad for business when your product name becomes a noun. You need to protect your trademark. But for the rest of us who love the Zamboni Machine, we don't want it getting a bad rap because of a competitor.

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