Trademark

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
generic, genericide, songs, trademark, velcro

Companies:
velcro



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."


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:48pm

    After kleenex, xerox, Clorox, Band-Aid and Rollerblades got hoovered up into common parlance, it became much easier to google them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:57pm

    The Patent Irony

    The patent likely worked against them. By the time competitor's entered the market, the term for the product was "Velcro". Because its easier said then "hook and loop". And without any innovation to stand out, I can't really tell the difference. In contrast, Kleenex is clearly dominant in its industry still, and I pay for the name brand because it always is superior in some way to the cheap generic. (Pocket packs for instance never dispense right with a cheap brand).

    Also, interestingly, I don't find Kleenex brand Kleenex in the store, nor do I find <local Brand> brand kleenex. I find kleenex brand facial tissue and <local brand> brand facial tissue. So Kleenex might no longer be generic?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TechDescartes (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 3:58pm

    "Hook and Loop" Won't Stick

    If they want to get all technical about it, according to their registration certificate, this ain't no mere "hook and loop." It's:

    molded and extruded plastic material having a surface of hooks or loops, for use in manufacture as components of hook and loop fastening systems; hook and loop fastening systems for use in manufacture

    Now put that in a lyric.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 26 Sep 2017 @ 7:38am

      Re: "Hook and Loop" Won't Stick

      Actually, that particular description fits almost perfectly with the tune of "Happy Birthday".

      However, I think producing a clip of someone singing it to that tune would cause some kind of intellectual property black hole to open up and swallow the world.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 4:29pm

    Its almost sad... you can chart where they went from young idealistic children who were gonna lawyer & change the world... and then their souls died & they declared war on protecting a trademark because something bad could happen.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Daydream, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:06pm

    Hookenloop.

    I guess it could roll off the tongue. Hookenloop shoes. Hookenloop straps. Velcro-brand Hookenloop.

    ...But dammit, now I'll have that song stuck in my head for hours. It's nearly as bad as The Song That Never Ends (It Just Goes On & On My Friends).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:11pm

    A Golden Marketing Opportunity

    Some "hook and loop" manufacturer needs to step up and very quickly get together a similar style video that quotes from this one "don't call it Velcro" but also goes on you don't have to call it "fucking hook & loop." either, you can call it [Insert their brand Name here].

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:11pm

    Brand premium

    .. 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.

    Uh, wouldn't anyone be able to write "velcro" on the package to get that premium? I'm certainly not going to care whether I'm buying "Velcro® hook-and-loop fastener" or "Acme velcro". (Actually, the latter is probably better, because you'd know it's actually velcro and not just some unrelated product released under the brand "Velcro"—like how soda-lime glass is being released as "Pyrex".)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      OldMugwump (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:36pm

      Re: Brand premium

      No, genuine Velcro brand velcro is "Velcro velcro".

      Generic branded velcro is just "velcro".

      ...and I'll call it whatever I damn please. Because *I* don't care about *their* trademark.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:44pm

        Re: Re: Brand premium

        No, genuine Velcro brand velcro is "Velcro velcro".

        We might call it that (in a world where we cared who manufactured our velcro), but the company would never write it with a lowercase "v" or use it as a description of the product.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:16pm

      On Pyrex

      Pyrex glassware is still heat resistant (tempered soda-lime) though granted less heat-resistant than borosilicate glass. Still you can get borosilicate glassware from laboratory suppliers, often much cheaper than you can kitchenware.

      Interestingly, all the Pyrex enthusiasts I know were keen about the product change-over, and now seek out vintage Pyrex over new stuff.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:26pm

        Re: On Pyrex

        Is there a difference between Pyrex and pyrex?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:41pm

          Re: Re: On Pyrex

          The good stuff (laboratory glassware that can go from a bunsen burner to an ice bath) is "PYREX" in capital letters. The soda-lime glass (which can shatter/explode on rapid cooling) is "pyrex". The company was, for quite a while, denying they changed anything.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:51pm

        Re: On Pyrex

        Pyrex glassware is still heat resistant (tempered soda-lime) though granted less heat-resistant than borosilicate glass.

        "Heat-resistant" isn't a problem at all; where the new glass fails is rapid cooling. Even putting it on a wet countertop can make it explode.

        Still you can get borosilicate glassware from laboratory suppliers, often much cheaper than you can kitchenware.

        Can anyone order that stuff? I've heard some states have laws restricting laboratory glassware (a consequence of the drug war). And can you recommend suppliers and products for the kitchen? I don't need beakers and test tubes. Maybe something with a lid that fits in a microwave.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Annonymouse, 25 Sep 2017 @ 8:15pm

          Re: Re: On Pyrex

          Look for vacuum jars and desixant jars. Some are shallow and either round or oblong.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 6:16am

          Re: Re: On Pyrex

          Oh great .. another benefit from the war on drugs - you can not purchase good kitchen ware. Brilliant!

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Michael, 26 Sep 2017 @ 9:02am

            Re: Re: Re: On Pyrex

            The next article is going to be about Channel 4 revealing that Amazon is now suggesting drug-making glassware to everyone that searches for kitchen supplies.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 4:57pm

            Re: Re: Re: On Pyrex

            Won't somebody think of the poor pressure cooker fans thanks to the War on Terror.

            Next it will be pottery fans being discriminated against thanks to the War on Terra-cotta.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Uriel-238 (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:03pm

          Borosilicate glassware

          Lab glass is not restricted here in California, but then again we're the drug runners who supply Benadryl for Oreganians in high-pollen areas (Benedryl is over-the-counter here and a known ingredient, hence restricted, for crystal meth up there.) Anything that's not a gun is legal here in CA.

          You can also look at Anchor Kitchenware (also Anchor Hocking or Anchor & Mill) who still use borosilicate glass as far as I know. Apparently, also rumor has it European Pyrex (manufactured in France) is still boro. Only American Pyrex is soda lime.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:28pm

    Fun fact: "hoop and loop" (velcro too) is often translated as "tape that grabs".
    They should have just made it it Velcro® grabber tape or something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 5:51pm

    I'm totally not going to call it "hook and loop"

    What Velcro needs to do is invent a catchier name for their textile-sticky-tape product.

    I'm also not going to call generic Post-its repositionable notes. (Seriously.)

    Flying fun disk didn't fly either. (Heh!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Uriel-238 (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:10pm

    Doesn't VELCRO® also have a line of variances?

    That would break up the name so it doesn't sound odd.

    VELCRO® Classic Velcro-Tape VELCRO® Heavyweight Velcro-Tape VELCRO® Discreet Velcro-Tape VELCRO® Double-Fuzzy Velcro-Tape

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:15pm

    How will one know when to call it Velcro?

    As if there are identifying marks on every little application of velcro. What happens if it is actually Velcro and i don't call it such? Beyond that, why didn't they spend the time since RTM identifying it as Velcro brand hook and loop fastener product? They did it to themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Sep 2017 @ 6:34pm

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bhull242, 25 Sep 2017 @ 9:00pm

    Seems a bit late…

    I don't think I've ever heard about them ever being called "hook and loop", just "velcro". It's probably way too late to push back now. Besides, "hook and loop" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Laziness of average person + decades-long habit = uphill battle for Velcro's trademark lawyers. I predict this will be less successful than the attempt for French regulators to impose a new French term for "email".

    Same goes for "band-aid"—which isn't actually synonymous with "bandage", as that applies to products beyond the medical tape + pad formula—which, again, seems to have been doomed to genericide long ago.

    That said, I'm unaware of any brand names for bleach that have ever been "used incorrectly", so I honestly don't know what that's about.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ryunosuke (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 3:22am

      Re: Seems a bit late…

      Band-aid usually refers to the small 2 inch long, 1 inch wide self adhesive bandage. However, there are also other types of bandages as well. For example, large gauze or cloth bandages that need medical tape or a roll (or tube) bandage (3M Coban LF) or compression bandage (ACE bandage)

      Roller blades/Inline Skates are interchangeable here.

      thing with Clorox/Bleach, is that Clorox makes other cleaners too, and there are a shit ton of other bleaches than Clorox.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 27 Sep 2017 @ 6:46pm

      Re: Seems a bit late…

      Technically speaking, "bread" is an unregistered trademark. So is almost every word for every manufactured good. They've just been in use so long they're generic.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 2:59am

    Only in America can someone actually get pissed off for becoming TOO successful and becoming a household name themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 6:52am

      Re:

      They were leaning too hard on the patent. 25 year guaranteed monopoly + easy to say brand name = Household name. But lean on that government grant for 25 years, then what. No one actually thinks Velcro brand is better than any other brand because they haven't built a reputation for being good at what they do or showing any reason that people would chose them over anyone else. Their only reputation is they *used* to be the only ones allowed to sell that product. The grant expires now all Velcro has going for them is name people recognize but don't care about.
      Maybe it's time to actually start competing?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 3:40am

    I have to be honest here. Lower-case-v "velcro" is so ubiquitous I thought the term had long since become generic until I read this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 6:32am

      Re:

      Until this, I wasn't even aware that "Velcro" even was a company. Like probably many, I had bought into the myth that velcro had been developed by nasa for the space program.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Shirley Willett, 26 Sep 2017 @ 5:03am

    Nylon & trademark fight

    I remember - being an old-timer in the fashion industry - when Dupont had a trademark fight about the fiber "nylon". They eventually lost and nylon became a generic name - so generic that I no longer remember whatever else the fiber was. Thanks TechDirt for you emails. Shirley Willett

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 6:29am

    There is no reason you can't easily be a household name and prevent actual counterfeits at the same time. The only reason the possibility of losing the trademarks exist is because companies abuse trademark law so much for other purposes. The more commonly used the marks are, the more difficult it is to ignore how burdensome the abuses are.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 26 Sep 2017 @ 7:30am

    They should be DELIGHTED that people call everything velcro-like Velcro. Because other companies cannot display VELCRO in their products so when people go looking for VELCRO the only one that will have the brand in their products is... Velcro. No seriously, use my goddamn brand already!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 10:35pm

      Re:

      Except, if they loose their trademark, others can call their products "velcro" as well.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:56am

        Re: Re:

        Can yes, should or would, well history says not likely. If you stop and think about it, the promotional gains could easily be eaten up by the negative PR if it appeared to the public an impostor was trying to horn in on somebody else. Particularly to those raised in an ownership culture. Then there is also the potential court cost to prove that it has become a generic term. That same court case would amplify any negative PR. Additionally the potential expenses if the courts were to determine that it is still a valid trademark and not yet a generic term. One thing I have learned from reading TechDirt is that courts can be fickle. Even if the court ruled favorably, the court of public opinion may be far less hospitable. So far when trademarks have become generic terms, competitors have not shown themselves to be such high-stakes gamblers.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    tubes420, 26 Sep 2017 @ 11:08am

    I've been calling it "Hook & Loop" for Years

    Being in the engineering field, when we make drawings, on the BOM we always had to call it "hook & loop" because of various businesses being afraid to use the copyrighted name on their drawings. That is the only time I've ever heard of Velcro being refereed to as "hook & loop" until I read this article.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Sep 2017 @ 11:33am

      Re: I've been calling it "Hook & Loop" for Years

      Hold the phone ... an engineering drawing calling out the use of velcro?

      Ummm - what product is the drawing defining?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dave P., 26 Sep 2017 @ 12:36pm

    Publicity?

    Is this just being incredibly silly and/or stupid or is it some sort of publicity stunt (as if they need it!)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 Sep 2017 @ 11:25am

    There's a company named Velcro? You learn something every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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