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Will the iPad follow the path of zippers, escalators, and heroin?

Despite other companies' efforts to create a household brand name, Apple has won with the iPad. The name is used not only to describe Apple's popular products, but also tablets in general.

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"You don't say 'Why don't I Google it' and go to Yahoo or Bing," says Jessica Litman, professor of copyright law at the University of Michigan Law School, referring to other search engines.

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Apple also has gotten a boost from its brand names becoming synonymous with products. The iPod, which was the first digital music player when it came out in 2001, is still the name people use for "digital music player" or "MP3 player." And it appears Apple's iPad is headed down the same path.

For consumers like Mary Schmidt, 58, the "iPad" is generic for "tablet." Schmidt, a Baltimore marketing executive, owns an iPad and doesn't know the names of any other tablets.

"When I think of tablets, I think of an iPad," she says. "I think it's going to be the generic name. They were first."

It remains to be seen if the iPad will maintain its name domination in the tablet market. Apple declined to comment for this article.

For now, Apple Inc. has a majority of the tablet category, which includes Amazon's Kindle Fire and Samsung Electronics Co.'s Galaxy Tablet. The iPad accounted for about 73 percent of the estimated 63.6 million tablets sold globally last year, according to research firm Gartner.

Apple's market share is likely to decline as more rivals roll out tablets. But experts say that won't necessarily diminish iPad's name recognition.

"Apple is actually pretty good at this," says Litman, the law school professor. "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."

When the iPad debuted in 2010, some people offered up "Apple Tablet" or the "iTab" as better names. Others even suggested that the name sounded more like a feminine hygiene product than a tablet: "Get ready for Maxi pad jokes and lots of 'em!" wrote tech site Gizmo at the time.

Two years later, those complaints are all but forgotten.

"At the end of the day, the product was so successful that even if it wasn't the 'quote unquote' best name, it made the name synonymous with the category," says Allen Adamson, managing director at branding firm Landor.

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