Shattering pyrex To Show A Massive Weakness In Trademark Law

from the turn-up-the-heat-and-it-shatters dept

Trademark at its best is a means to protect the public and consumers. A brand may be associated with a particular product and a particular level of quality. Consumers seeking exactly that product and quality will seek that brand; Trademark laws ensure they're getting the real thing.

Take Pyrex: it's heat-resistant glass, what we used in chemistry lab in high school, what you buy if you're cooking and baking with a lot of heat changes. Except it's not, as this highly amusing video demonstrates (start watching at about 28:00):
What I and everyone I know always called Pyrex is in fact borosilicate glass. I didn't even know the term "borosilicate" until I watched this. Pyrex has never been commonly referred to as "Pyrex brand borosilicate glass." It was just Pyrex, the stuff you used in a lab, that you could heat up and cool down without breaking.

Trademark treats brands as "property," controlled exclusively by "owners," who can buy and sell them:
In 1998, Corning divested its consumer products division which subsequently adopted the name World Kitchen, acquiring the rights to the pyrex® trademark. The company introduced clear tempered soda-lime glass kitchenware and bakeware under the pyrex® name. link
According to Wikipedia, Corning's responsibility extends to this formality:
When trademarked as PYREX® (all UPPER CASE LETTERS plus, in the USA, a trademark notice comprising a capital “R” in a circle) the trademark includes clear, low-thermal-expansion borosilicate glass used for laboratory glassware and kitchenware, plus other kitchenware including opaque tempered high-thermal-expansion soda-lime glass, pyroceram, stoneware, and metal items See. e.g., http://www.amazon.co.uk/s?index=kitchen-uk&field-keywords=pyrex. European trademark usage differs from American and the encircled "R" is not present on European PYREX items.

When trademarked as pyrex® (all lower case letters plus a trademark notice comprising a capital “R” in a circle) the trademark includes clear tempered high-thermal-expansion soda-lime glass kitchenware, plus other non-glass kitchenware, made by World Kitchen. See, e.g., http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=bl_sr_kitchen?node=1055398&field-brandtextbin=Pyrex
I don't think this passes the "moron in a hurry" test, but it's not put to the test because Corning isn't having a dispute with a competitor. Rather, they are misleading consumers, and Trademark law as it currently exists offers no remedy.

Consumer Reports did a video about glass bakeware exploding, but didn't address the Trademark issue at all:
Imagine if a counterfeiter were passing off soda lime glass as Pyrex. The outcry would be huge. Government agencies would be busting down doors and arresting people and using it as a reason to pass ACTA. But if Corning and their licensees do it under the Pyrex brand, all we can do is shrug.

In his book Against Intellectual Property, Stephan Kinsella argues that Trademark should protect the rights of consumers. He suggests Trademark suits should be brought by consumers against monopolists, not by monopolists against competitors. I have no answers, and like I said I'm not a Trademark abolitionist. I certainly don't want to increase the reach of Trademark law; I generally don't think more lawsuits are an answer to anything. But it's a good story to show that Trademark isn't as functional as we'd like it to be.

Filed Under: consumer protection, pyrex, trademark
Companies: pyrex


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Feb 2012 @ 8:03pm

    Re: Re:

    The reason most people think your comments are silly and mock you is because you are so focused on the letter of the law, that you totally miss the intent of the law. Nina made a very reasonable case for how this doesn't fit with the intent of the law, and you -- like a stuck up law student at a 4th tier law school -- argues the specifics of what the law says.

    This is why you always get stuff wrong on copyright too. You're so focused on law and order and following the letter of the law, you immediately misconstrue any higher level argument about how the letter of the law fails to meet with the intent of the law.


    LOL! That's your response? Can you not even admit that Nina has displayed an abysmal understanding of the law? I know, I know. You'll defend her to the death, never admitting even the possibility that she got anything wrong.

    Let's play your game, Mike. Explain how PYREX changing the type of glass it uses goes against the intent of trademark law. I'm more than happy to see this debate all the way through until one of admits the other is right. I know you won't play though. You'll run away as you always do when called out for your idiocy. I won't hold my breath waiting for you to answer.

    And, seriously dude. Having Nina Paley write articles about trademark law is really fucking weak. At least you know enough about to sound plausible. She just sounds like a complete idiot, and that makes you look like an idiot for letting her post this nonsense on your site. LMAO!

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.