Velcro's Hilarious Trademark Lesson Video Actually A Good Lesson In Just How Stupid Trademark Law Has Become
from the genericide-insanity dept
So, you’ve probably heard stories in the past about the fear some trademark lawyers have about “genericide” — where their product’s name becomes so attached to the product that it’s considered generic and the trademark no longer applies? Think kleenex and xerox for example. We’ve found, over the years, that people get a bit too worked up about this, leading trademark lawyers to make some really dumb demands along the way to try to “prevent” what is generally impossible to actually prevent. We also often see people claim (falsely) that this means companies are required to stop any and all uses of their mark, even when not infringing (or, even worse, seeing people falsely claiming that the same thing applies to copyright). Either way, the company Velcro has taken… well… quite a unique approach to the fact that everyone calls their most famous product “velcro” — even when made by competitors. They made an absolutely hilarious “We are the World”-style video begging you not to call it Velcro and telling you, in no uncertain terms, that they it’s “fucking hook & loop.” Really.
When I first saw it, I thought it was a John Oliver or SNL-style parody video, but nope. It’s real. It’s on Velcro’s official YouTube feed, and they even have a behind the scenes “making of” video to explain how the video was made and how it came about (including the fact that two actual Velcro lawyers are in the video).
Of course, they insist they’re doing this to get people talking about the importance of calling it “hook and loop” though I think at best, it will just get people talking about how incredibly dumb trademark law has become, where this kind of thing is seen as necessary. The only people who will now start calling it “hook and loop” are likely to be people doing it ironically. In which case, they may go with the longer “this is fucking hook and loop,” as the song suggests. But, as the song itself suggests, it’s totally ridiculous that the company has to do this to try to get you to stop saying the brand name that the company spent “60 plus years” building. The song also jokingly references other genericized brands, such as Clorox, Band-Aid and Rollerblades.
Thankfully, they don’t seem to get the finer points of the law really wrong in the song — noting that the patent on velcro expired 40 years ago, and if everyone calls everything similar velcro, the company might “lose our circle R.” Of course, they leave out the fact that if they lose the trademark… it’s actually probably not that big a deal. People will still call all similar products velcro, but Velcro-brand velcro will almost certainly still be able to charge a premium, since people will recognize the brand name.
And that’s really what highlights how dumb all of this is. Even if you lose the trademark to genericide, that doesn’t mean the company packs up and moves on. It just shows how much the brand itself has resonated, and companies have lots of ways to continue to capitalize on that brand, even without the registered trademark. So, while I can always get behind hilarious videos concerning oddities in trademark, copyright or patent law, this video seems like a much better lesson in the stupidity of trademark law (and how much lawyers overreact to the fear of genericide) than any legitimate argument against calling someone else’s velcro-like fastner “velcro.”