The iPad is fast becoming the generic term for tablet computers, joining such illustrious names as Hoover for vacuum-cleaner, Esky for coolboxes, Panadol for painkillers and Band-Aids for bandages.

“For the vast majority, the idea of a tablet is really captured by the idea of an iPad,”‘ electronics retailer Josh Davis told The Associated Press. “They gave birth to the whole category and brought it to life.”

The success of the iPad – the latest version of which had queues stretching around the block on 16 March – has had an impact upon the psyche of the tech-minded world accounting for 58 percent of 2011’s 4th-quarter global tablet shipments.

But the mainstream use of the iPad name is a double-edged sword for Apple, which fears the ‘genericisation’ of its tablet brand.

“There’s tension between legal departments concerned about ‘genericide’ and marketing departments concerned about sales,” the AP article quotes Seattle trademark attorney Michael Atkins as saying. “Marketing people want the brand name as widespread as possible and trademark lawyers worry … the brand will lose all trademark significance.”

Apple Insider believes that Apple must act “aggressively” to defend the iPad trademark to ensure it doesn’t fall into the generic category and join products such as Rollerblades and Coke.

“In order to maintain ownership of a brand, companies must aggressively defend their trademarks to ensure they do not become generic,” Apple Insider’s Slash Lane writes. “Apple has already experienced a similar issue with the iPod, which has dominated the portable media player market for over a decade.”

However, Lane quotes University of Michigan Law School’s Jessica Litman as saying this isn’t an issue for Apple.

“Apple is actually pretty good at this,” Litman says. “It’s able to skate pretty close to the generics line while making it very clear the name is a trademark of the Apple version of this general category.”