Community Backlash Leads Adult Diaper Company To Drop Its Trademark Application for 'ABDL'

from the waaaaah dept

When a company goes down a wrong or abusive road regarding trademark rights, the public has a lot of tools for remedy. Legal disputes between interested parties can often times correct a company attempting to secure trademark rights it ought not have. Invalidating a trademark that never should have been granted is another tool. But often times, the best and quickest remedies can come from the public itself in the form of a good old fashioned backlash.

The likelihood of such a backlash is necessarily a function of the devotion of a particular fanbase. The craft beer industry has had to learn this lesson several times, with a portion of the public devoted to seeing the industry thrive also being unwilling to let stand aggressive trademark bullying that threatens that same industry. We saw another of these backlash instances cause a company to reverse course recently and I struggle to think of a more potentially devoted fanbase to an industry than those among us whose fetish is role-playing as adult babies.

A company that makes diapers for the adult baby/diaper lover fetish community (known as ABDL) gave up on its attempt to trademark the term “ABDL” on Thursday after message boards for the community exploded in anger last week.

Rearz, a Canadian-based supplier of adult diapers with cutesy patterns and other adult baby accessories, like pacifiers, told BuzzFeed News, “we had no malicious or strange intentions in trying to register it, but obviously it struck a nerve with people. This is a community we love and serve, and we don’t want to make people feel less valuable.”

It will be both tempting and facile for our comments section to devolve into opinions about this specific fetish, but that is entirely besides the point. The real story here is that a company attempted to register a trademark that is essentially the identity of an entire community which it serves and was immediately slapped around by that same community. It seems that many of the same folks that enjoy wearing diapers as adults for any reason other than necessity were also perfectly willing to let Rearz know that trademarking their communal identity would not be tolerated. Boycotts were threatened with promises to patronize other makers of these products, which, yes, this is an industry with multiple players.

As is typical, Reddit communities led the way.

Rearz filed to trademark “ABDL” in October 2017, but it was only this week that someone in the community noticed. At this discovery, the /r/ABDL subreddit filled with angry threads about Rearz’s trademark filings. “This is scummy. Period,” wrote one user. In another thread, angry ABDL redditors planned to ruin Rearz’s standing on Facebook by rating it one star on its business page. On a forum for adult babies called, one adult baby said, “Rearz is now off my shopping list.” People even made memes about the scandal.

In rescinding its trademark application, Rearz went on to post its reasoning for applying for in the first place on its blog. That reasoning had mostly to do with the company’s complaints about certain online ads and online payments not being accepted due to the products’ stigmitized status in popular culture. What a trademark for “ABDL” would do to correct any of that is a question nobody seems interested in answering, but Rearz’s claim that it would not enforce its trademark against competition if it had received it doesn’t pass the smell test. Even if that were true, it would mean losing the trademark to genericide.

But, in the end, the community Rearz served did all of that work long before the legal system had a chance to swing the bat. If nothing else, this ought to show the rest of the public what a good old fashioned backlash can do to correct poor trademark behavior.

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Companies: rearz

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Comments on “Community Backlash Leads Adult Diaper Company To Drop Its Trademark Application for 'ABDL'”

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Anonymous Coward says:

…it would mean losing the trademark to genericide.

I doubt this would really be a concern. The trademark is already generic. You can’t possibly get more generic than "literally everybody in my entire market (including both my my competition and my customers) already use this term to describe themselves."

If it was granted, they could easily argue in court that the term is actually less generic now than when it was granted, and therefore we can’t be in danger of losing our trademark.

carlb (profile) says:

just whine and cry more loudly

Sadly, if this is the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, sometimes things do get past just because applicants (or, more likely, their overpaid lawyers) whine, cry and “fuss quietly” for long enough that they get given the mark just to pacify them. For instanct, some Toronto pizza joint managed to trademark the seven-digit telephone number 967-1111. Since when is the number itself a brand of food?

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Surely that should be "personcott" these days?

Boycotts were threatened with promises to patronize other makers of these products, which, yes, this is an industry with multiple players.

Yeah, that works less well in sectors where there basically isn’t an alternative, or the alternative supplier of said product/service is just as big a sh*tnozzle… Take US broadband for example…

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re: Surely that should be "personcott" these days?

Apparently you don’t do facetious. Though I’ll grant you there is a fair-sized element on the internet who would probably mean it. The big give away, though, is that it’s in the header and was only peripherally connected to what I was actually talking about, which is that boycotts often don’t work.

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