Brand misuse – Fight of Xerox

Xerox fights brand misuse, aims to diversify: Some images and names stick like glue. Like the ageing movie heroine, or Thermos. or Xerox.

Till the going is good, no one really minds. However, every brand hits stereotype saturation. Better still, it guards against blatant liberties being taken with the language: the lines separating the nouns from the verbs can’t blur too often.

Thus, a Google and a Xerox may have become generic terms for web searches and photocopying, but not every copycat has nine lives on a shelf.

Companies who want to diversify into other businesses keeping the same branding find the brand-turned-verb paradigm annoying.
Firms like the Xerox Corporation sought legal aid in India to guard against brand infringement by jobbers and ‘xeroxing’ businesses the ubiquitous photocopying kiosks, for instance, which use ‘xerox’ as part of their own names.
Incidentally, many of these firms are customers of the Rochester-headquartered $17.2 billion giant, but have been using the word ‘xerox’ in their trademarks for many years.
In the past 18 months, Xerox has taken up 150 cases where Brand Xerox was being severely compromised. They have reached an out-of-court settlement with many firms. To avoid future use of Xerox brand in any other company’s name, a permanent watch is kept by Xerox’s vigilance team on the trademark filings at the Indian Trademarks Office to prevent the use of names with Xerox or Xeroxing.
The company undertook a major exercise early this year unveiling a new logo and brand identity.
Xerox now wants to project itself as a wholesome office IT equipment provider rather than just a copier company, which may restrict its future growth and sales. Currently, only 5% of the company’s revenues come from copier sales, with the remaining coming from sales of MFDs (multi function devices), printers, fax machines, digital printing presses and so on.

India is one of Xerox’s largest markets for black-and-white copier sales. There are mixed feelings when the Company hears Xerox being used as a verb for photocopying these days. On the one hand, it is a proud achievement and on the other, it may give the wrong image to consumers. They want to dissociate Xerox from photocopying as the Company wants to be seen as a leading technology solutions provider. It’s a problem that exists in many geographical locations and they have taken up the issue with many dictionary makers to take Xeroxing out of the latest dictionaries.

The company began by selling photographic paper in 1906. However, it came to prominence only in 1961, with the introduction of the plain paper photocopier through a process known as Xerography. In Xerography, an electromagnetic charge is made to pass through paper and the opaque portion which comprises letters or pictures attracts the charge while the rest passes through. The electric charge then attracts the ink, giving rise to a photocopy.

By 1965, the company touched $500 million in revenue through the photocopying business in which it enjoyed a monopoly. Judicial anti-trust rulings later required it to share Xerography, which other companies still use.

Incidentally, Xerox was also one of the first companies to make Alto, a minicomputer prototype in 1973. But it was still perceived as a copier company until it diversified in other products.
While Xerox is pursuing these charges mainly in India, the problem persists in countries like Russia, where the language does not have a word for photocopying.