Is Ping Pong Trademarked
Last modified: October 13, 2023
Welcome to the exciting world of ping pong! There’s a whole lot of fun, competition, and skilfulness hidden in this little name. However, on occasion, it has sparked a trademark controversy that has left beginners and professionals alike scratching their heads. With this post, I’m hoping to clear the cloud of confusion and help you understand if the term “ping pong” is really a trademarked name or just a generic term for table tennis. So, without further ado, let’s dive right in.
Understanding the Trademark Situation of Ping Pong
Ping pong, supposedly deriving its name from the sound the ball makes when it hits the table, is a term that many of us have used interchangeably with table tennis. Yet, here’s a little surprise. ‘Ping Pong’ is in fact a trademarked term owned by Parker Brothers, a subsidiary of Hasbro. Let’s deep-dive into the intricacies below.
The Duality of the Term “Ping Pong”
In the early years of the sport, ‘Ping Pong’ was just another name for table tennis. But in 1901, John Jacques registered “Ping Pong” as a trade name in England. Later, Parker Brothers bought the rights to the name in the United States, and since then, it’s been a registered trademark in these regions. However, in countries where the name wasn’t protected, ‘ping pong’ continued to be a freely used synonym for table tennis.
The Impact on Sporting Enterprises
For sports businesses, the trademark issue mainly lies in the commercial exploitation of the name ‘ping pong.’ If a company wants to sell Ping Pong branded products in regions where the trademark is enforced, they need to acquire a license. This is why you often see sports equipment marketed as ‘table tennis’ gear and not ‘ping pong.’
The Confusion Among the Playing Community
For regular players and enthusiasts, the catch is less about commercial usage and more about awareness. Many people are unaware that Ping Pong is a trademarked term, and hence, they use it interchangeably with table tennis. The usage is so widespread that it is common to see local clubs and tournaments named as ‘ping pong’ events without any legal repercussion.
Trademark vs. Colloquial Use – The Current Scenario
The line between trademark infringement and colloquial use is still blurry when it comes to ‘ping pong.’ Let’s explore a bit more.
How Trademark Laws Apply
Trademark laws essentially protect a company’s unique identifiers such as names, logos, against use that can cause confusion among consumers or imply endorsement where there isn’t one. They, however, are not designed to stifle the general use of a term that has already entered common language, which might be the case with ‘ping pong.’
The Declining Enforcement
While the commercial right to ‘Ping Pong’ is still technically enforceable within the regions it’s trademarked, its enforcement seems to be on the decline. A walk down the sports aisle in any store will reveal plenty of ‘ping pong’ products from different companies, suggesting lax enforcement.
Where It All Stands Today
Despite the complicated history of its trademark status, the term ‘ping pong’ today is largely considered a generic term for the sport of table tennis in many parts of the world. Its trademark status seldom affects the sport’s popularity or the common man’s use of the term.
In summary, while the term ‘ping pong’ is technically a registered trademark in certain regions, its widespread and colloquial use continues predominantly unabated. This seemingly trademark vs. colloquial usage conflict doesn’t stop us from enjoying the fast-paced spins, intense flyballs, and thrilling matches. So, whether you call it ping pong or table tennis, keep practicing those swings and serves for the love of the game.