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Trademarks and brands

Avoid using a trademark unless you’re referring to a specific product.

This can be tricky when a trademarked name, like Kleenex, has become synonymous with an entire family of products. Try to use a generic word — like tissue — instead of a brand name.

Common trademarked words (with alternative terms)

  • Band-Aid (adhesive bandage, bandage)
  • Bubble Wrap (packaging bubbles)
  • Chapstick (lip balm)
  • Crayola (crayons)
  • Dumpster (waste container, trash container)
  • Hi-Liter (highlighting marker)
  • iPod (MP3 player)
  • Kleenex (tissue)
  • Plexiglas (plastic glass)
  • Post-it note (adhesive note)
  • Q-Tips (cotton swabs)
  • Scotch tape (transparent tape)
  • Styrofoam (plastic foam)
  • Taser (stun gun)
  • Xerox (photocopy, copy)

Guidelines

Careful use of trademarked names and brands is important because the government shouldn’t endorse specific brands or products. When writing about corporate brands or products to illustrate a point, mention a range of related companies instead of a single provider. For example:

Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube can help you connect with users.

Avoid linking to products or services, because people can see it as an endorsement. The same rule applies to the brands and products of individuals, such as personal websites or websites where you can buy their book. Do link to useful resources, like slide decks or how-to guides, from private individuals or companies. If you mention a trademark, capitalize and punctuate it in the trademark holder’s preferred style.

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18F Content Guide is a product of GSA’s Technology Transformation Services, and is managed by 18F.

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