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Velcro's marketing department scored a huge victory this week, as their heavily bleeped music video featuring actual in-house attorneys imploring consumers to say "hook and loop" rather than "Velcro" went viral. If not, these company lawyers explain, Velcro may "lose our circle R," or trademark on their own company name.
Known in intellectual property law circles as "genericide," a trademark can be deemed to be abandoned if the mark becomes the generic name for the goods or services on or in connection with which it is used. While that fate has befallen brands like Hoover, Jacuzzi, and Frisbee, Velcro is hoping to avoid being the next victim. But is it really up to consumers to protect a company's trademark?
By its own admission, Velcro's patent on its adhesive fabric expired 40 years ago. Since then, the company has been forced to stand on its name and reputation while imitators entered the market, hoping that manufacturers and consumers would recognize the quality associated with Velcro as opposed to other "hook and loop" companies. And the purported lawyers are begging consumers to keep the company's name out of their mouths:
"And we're asking you not to say a name we took 60+ years to build,
But if you keep callin' these 'Velcro Shoes', our trademark will get killed, yeah."
It's a pretty compelling argument. First, did you even know that there were other companies making similar hook and loop products to fill that coast-to-coast loud fastener demand? Second, Velcro is their name, shouldn't they get to keep it?
Velcro's request echoes a Xerox ad from 2003 that bemoaned:, "When you use 'Xerox' the way you use 'aspirin,' we get a headache." But is it really a consumer's responsibility to protect a company's trademark rights? After all, verse two of "Don't Say Velcro" admits:
We know that seems ridiculous, this is a first-world-situation
And we made half of a billion last year -- I went to Turks on my last vacation
Even if the onus is on customers to not use the word Velcro for fear of genericide, what's in it for consumers, who are being asked to do the legal legwork of in-house counsel? Maybe a few of those half a billion bucks? A vacation to Turks and Caicos?
It may be unbearable for Velcro's in-house counsel or intellectual property divisions, but if there's no other way to quickly describe how your Roos worked in elementary school, Velcro away.