William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 20, No. 1 (Fall 1978), pp. 1-32


This article focuses on the FTC's authority under section 14 of the Lanham Act to petition for the cancellation of a trademark on the ground that the mark has become "the common descriptive name of an article or substance" and, thus, generic. The FTC's recent decision to challenge Formica Corporation's FORMICA trademark manifests a shift in agency policy which is highly inappropriate and which could have damaging effects on consumers and industry. Competition and the public interest would be better served if the FTC did not exercise this discretionary power, leaving the issue of whether a trademark should be cancelled as generic to be raised and argued in disputes between private firms. If in some instances the continued use of a generic trademark results in demonstrable consumer deception or competitive unfairness and no private firm is interested in litigating the issue, the FTC's power under section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act to prevent unfair or deceptive business practices provides a sufficient and more appropriate administrative remedy.