Sometimes it’s because they’re really talking about the trademarked material. (Example: “Canoe thermoformers scramble for Royalex replacement”). Other times it’s because they’re used to using, for example, a particular brand of polycarbonate resin, but they’re really using the term as a shorthand term for the generic name.
One result of the casual way the industry uses trade names is that plastics is full of examples of “genericide” — what happens when a protectible trademark becomes generic.
Over the weekend, Consumerist.com wrote a post on the topic, “15 Product Trademarks That Have Become Victims Of Genericization.” Plastics products are quite prominent on the list, and I don’t think it even scratches the surface.
Mary Beth Quirk’s examples include a few plastics-related products: Cellophane, Linoleum and Yo-Yo. She also includes a separate list, “42 trademarks who need to watch their backs,” with many more plastics examples (AstroTurf, Bubble Wrap, Fiberglas/Fiberglass, Formica, Frisbee, Hula Hoop, Plexiglas/Plexiglass, Saran Wrap, Scotch tape, Teflon and Tupperware).
I’m sure Plastics Blog readers can think of a dozen more with no trouble at all. (How can you leave Nylon off the first list, and Styrofoam off the second, for example). On a side note, it’s interesting that Saran Wrap no longer contains any Saran (polyvinylidene chloride resin). So in this case, the name that’s in danger of being genericized is also at least a little bit misleading!