CrossFit has become a fast growing industry since entering the fitness world in the early 2000’s. There are now thousands of affiliates, which span across the globe, and each affiliate owner pays a $3,000 annual licensing fee to use the CrossFit brand name. CrossFit, the company, has prided itself on their distinction from other fitness companies, and have even partnered with Reebok to host an annual tournament (The CrossFit Games) every summer. CrossFit has a vast community of individuals and affiliates, they help notify them if the trademarked “CrossFit” term is being used somewhere illegally. So far, they have been successful in policing the use of the “CrossFit” trademark by sending out cease and desist letters whenever necessary, but slowly CrossFit is becoming a generic term.
Despite all the success in preventing other from “stealing” their name, CrossFit may be in trouble of losing the trademark in the near future. Although companies spend a lot of money in the renewal of their trademarks, pursuant to U.S law, they can lose the trademark if the term becomes generic. This is the same fear other brands such as “Kleenex” and “Xerox” have, as people used these terms in place of “tissue” and “copy”. CrossFit has become so mainstream, that it is beginning to be used as a generic term for metabolic endurance type training.
Pilates, Inc. can serve as a cautionary tail to CrossFit as they lost their trademark in the 90’s. Pilates, like CrossFit, spent thousands of dollars securing their trademark, by sending out cease and desist letters and ensuring they received licensing fees from anyone using the “Pilates” term. However, in 2000, the United States District Court in Manhattan declared the “Pilates” trademark was no longer valid because it became “a generic mode of exercise.”
A trademark becomes “generic” when the products or services, with which the trademark is associated, have acquired substantial market dominance or mind share, such that the primary meaning of the term becomes the product or service itself, rather than an indication of source for the product or service.
This is the issue, and somewhat panic, with CrossFit, Inc. As the sport becomes more and more popular, and as more affiliates begin to open across the country and worldwide, the trademark runs the dangerous risk of becoming generic. If CrossFit becomes generic the company will no longer have control over use of the term. This means that potentially they will no longer receive income from gyms, classes, training certificates, shoes, and Reebok. CrossFit has built their brand on their trademark, like the majority of companies do, so when it becomes generic the company may not survive. If CrossFit wants to keep their trademark from falling into the generic category they must find a way to make it source-signifying again, but it may be too little too late.
If someone wants to start a fast-paced lifting class, but can not use the term CrossFit, what other way can they describe the class? This is an example of the problem CrossFit is running into.