specific manufacturer, a genericised name becomes the name for which a product is generally known. Examples of these are “Escalator” which was a valid and registered trademark, but over time came to be understood as the generic term for a moving staircase or the term “Frisbee” for a flying disc. Yet, in the firearm industry (and specifically in the context of referring to a calibre), trademarks appear safe from the risk which is assumed by the generic use thereof.
Another unusual scenario in trademark law is the use by firearm manufacturers of the well-known trademarks of their competitors (who originated the specific calibres) in relation to their guns eg Rem, Win, H&H or Rigby appearing on a Tikka, Mauser, Howa, Sako or CZ. Enterprises generally incur considerable costs and enormous effort to market their own brands and the last thing they want to be seen doing is to market the brands of their competitors. Yet, this appears to have become customary and established practice in the firearm trade.
Individuals skilled in the trade are less likely to be confused. However, what is the person who has little knowledge of firearms to think when confronted in a rifle catalogue with descriptions such as “7X57 Mauser Nosler M48 Professional” or “338 Lapua Savage Mod 111 Long Range Hunter”? Buying a rifle can be a daunting exercise. Ensuring there is no confusion between the name used in describing the calibre and the actual make of firearm is a necessity.
In this respect, firearms — as with scheduled medicines — are not “over the counter” substances. At least with every legal purchase, the assistance of an in-shop salesman is available not only to see the sale through and provide the paperwork for the licensing process to start, but also to deal with enquiries and in as far as may be necessary provide clarity on the make, model and calibre.
So why are calibres described in this manner? Is it the price manufacturers must pay to walk in the footprints of the innovators who preceded them? A likely answer seems to be that the originator of the calibre is acknowledged, similar to the way in which a researcher who writes an essay must mention the source(s) of his wisdom. This custom shows that in the law of trademarks there is no onesize-fits-all approach. Each industry has its own nuances and established practices which may have an impact on and even deviate from ordinary trademark considerations.