‘Spinning’ is trademarked, and Peloton isn’t happy about it

Peloton is fighting to have the terms “spin” and “spinning” treated as generic terms, arguing that they’ve entered into common usage in spite of being trademarked since the late 90s, Bloomberg reports. This week it filed petitions with the US Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to try and cancel both trademarks owned by Mad Dogg Athletics, arguing that “spin class and spin bike are part of the fitness lexicon” and that they’re “generic terms to describe a type of exercise bike and associated in-studio class.”

Mad Dogg had earlier filed a lawsuit against Peloton, alleging that its products infringe upon its exercise bike patents. While the lawsuit doesn’t make claims on trademarks, Bloomberg characterizes Peloton’s attempt to cancel Mad Dogg’s trademarks as a “retaliatory effort.” Mad Dogg has challenged Peloton’s use of the term “spin” in the past, and last year asked it to remove a video from its YouTube channel that referenced the phrase.

There are numerous examples of product names that started out as trademarks, but which eventually entered common usage as product categories and lost their legal protections. Bloomberg notes that “escalator” and “murphy bed” are two high profile examples of so-called “genericide.” But understandably, companies with trademarks are keen to hold on to the exclusive right to use and profit off them, and often go to great lengths to avoid terms like “Band-Aid” or “Xerox” from becoming generic.

Mad Dogg Athletics devotes a page on its website to how the terms should be used. “These marks are brand names that serve to identify the unique fitness products and programs offered by Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc,” the company says, noting that they’re “important business assets” that should be treated with “care and respect.”

Mad Dogg’s website argues that consumers would be harmed alongside the company if the terms became generic. “Loss of a trademark,” it says, “denies consumers the opportunity to identify an original, quality product developed with years of experience for repeat satisfactory purchases.”

Peleton, unsurprisingly, disagrees. In its filing it says Mad Dogg “has spent years engaged in a bullying campaign of demand letters and litigation to force people and companies to stop using the very terms they have every right to use.”

“Enough is enough. It is time to put a stop to Mad Dogg’s tactic of profiting by threatening competitors, marketplaces and even journalists with enforcement of generic trademarks,” Peloton’s filing argues.

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