Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Does "Generic" Actually Mean?

From today's Newsday, from a story titled "Smokers ignited over tax hike":

Frank Steigerwal, 60, a school custodian who lives in West Sayville, reeled when he paid $19.34 for two boxes of Mavericks and one box of Naturals at Jim's Smoke Shop in Patchogue. On Monday, those three packs would have cost $14.90. Mavericks, a generic brand, cost $5.35 a pack at Jim's.

Ummmmmm, how can you possibly have a generic brand? You can have a generic THING, but once it becomes a brand, well, it's a brand. It might be an incredibly inexpensive brand. It might be  brand that is sold at the same price as something that doesn't carry a brand name.

But if you are giving it a name that is not "Cigarette," it's a brand.

I think "generic brand" is an oxymoron--is it not?

I see from this website
that people in the industry do indeed have a category called "generic brands."

And I see that the Texas Administrative Code recognizes this term:
"Cigarette Nicotine Yield Rating Reporting Requirements," Title 25, park 1, chapter 101, rule 101.5: "if the brand styles within a private label or generic cigarette brand family are identical "

How about this complete and total contradiction:

"Miami-based generic cigarette maker Trademark Holdings Corp. faced a tough choice recently: Cease production of its new and profitable Cowboys brand cigarettes -- which are packaged with the image of a cowboy astride a horse -- or shoot it out with Philip Morris U.S.A. in an intellectual property lawsuit."

Or this one, from May 11, 1984:
"n a re- positioning of Doral, a cigarette first introduced in 1968, Reynolds is entering the no-image, low-cost generic end of the cigarette business for the first time."

I mean, jeez, they're repositioning an existing brand, and *calling* it a generic?

The NYTimes recognizes the term. There's a reference in a law journal to a "branded 'generic' cigarette."

This term is all over the place--it's making my head hurt. I'm glad I don't smoke.

What's with this? is there some basic standard that all these companies are following, and that is what makes it generic? But even then, if they put ANY sort of name on it, isn't it no longer a generic?

We ought not to let them get away with this.


mighty red pen said...

I totally have no answer whatsoever and can only contribute to this conversation by noting that pharmaceuticals also have "generic brands." I'll be interested to see if anyone can shed any light on this.

JD said...

I think generic brand pharmaceuticals are those where the patent has expired. They are generic, because everyone makes them to the same standard; but they are brands, because they have their own names, labels etc.

I don't know how that might apply to cigarettes!

TootsNYC said...

well, maybe there's some standard, in terms of how finely the tobacco is cut, how long it was aged, what sorts of tar and nicotine modification was done, what sorts of flavor enhancers were added.

But it's still an oxy-maroon.

Of course, when they first came out w/ "generics" back in the--what, 70s? 80s?--people drew distinctions between them based on the tiny variations in the "black Helvetica on white background" design, choosing ones they liked more.

W/ generic drugs, I feel like there's enough "science" to have a standard from maker to maker. Not sure I buy that w/ something like cigarettes.

Editrix said...

OK, I'm now officially obsessed with this topic. I went to Webster's and looked up the definition of "generic": "being or having a nonproprietary name (generic drugs)." That made me think that, yes, it's an oxymoron, or a redundancy, or some other fishy thing. Then I looked it up in the American Heritage: "3a. Not having a brand name: generic soap. b. Of or being a drug sold under or identified by its official nonproprietary or chemical name." More confirmation. Then, I noticed that the American Heritage includes a definition for "generic name": "1. A name that is not or does not include a trademark or brand name. 2. The official nonproprietary name of a drug, under which it is licensed and identified by the manufacturer." So, I guess when people say "generic brand," technically what they should really be saying is "generic name" or, simply, "generic."