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 ADISC.org, 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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  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 3:42pm

    Its stupid... like trying to trademark ComicCon...oh they granted that?

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

  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 3:56pm

    That must have been one hell of a temper tantrum.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2018 @ 4:27pm

    ...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.

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

  • identicon
    carlb, 17 Jan 2018 @ 7:29pm

    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?

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

    • icon
      rou (profile), 17 Jan 2018 @ 7:39pm

      Re: just whine and cry more loudly

      Why would you need to trademark a phone number, anyway? It's not like your competition's going to use your phone number in their advertising.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:23pm

        Re: Re: just whine and cry more loudly

        It's not like your competition's going to use your phone number in their advertising.

        They could maybe get some free business by registering that number in another area code.

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

  • identicon
    annonymouse, 17 Jan 2018 @ 9:12pm

    Pizza

    One of their competitors uses a play on their number ending in three six ... sounds like free ... well you know where this is going.

    They also do a lot of various cold and rainy day radio spots. .. mildly amusing.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 1:00am

    From the THIS WEBSITE FUCKING SUCKS COCK dept.

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

  • icon
    Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 1:08am

    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...

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

    • icon
      Bergman (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 9:09pm

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

      Why would it be personcott, when the original word had absolutely nothing to do with gender? Boycott protests were named for the guy who inspired the first really famous one -- Charles C. Boycott.

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

      • icon
        Not an Electronic Rodent (profile), 19 Jan 2018 @ 10:37am

        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.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 8:07am

    us?!?

    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.

    Is there something you are trying to tell us?

    ;P

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

    • icon
      Dark Helmet (profile), 18 Jan 2018 @ 8:29am

      Re: us?!?

      ...I think you need to reread that sentence and understand how English works. The "us" is humanity, and the "those among" are the diaper folk. One is a subset of the other, not all encompassing.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 18 Jan 2018 @ 12:44pm

        Re: Re: us?!?

        Yes I know what he intended and wrote. It was a joke, chill. I'm not out of the blue or whatever the person is going by these days.

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


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