Velcro, a company that makes those fasteners you always call “velcro,” released a pretty clever music video Monday pleading with consumers to stop calling their products by that name. The term is “hook and loop” and if too many people use the wrong one, this company might lose their registered trademark.
“This is called hook and loop,” goes the song, which is based on We are the World. “This part’s a hook. This part’s a loop. You call it ‘Velcro’ but we’re begging you. This is f–king hook and loop.”
It’s a music video, but some of those are the company’s actual lawyers, such as legal consultant Alexandra DeNeve and Joshua Jarvis, a partner at Foley Hoag, LLP.
The name “Velcro” originated with hook and loop inventor George de Mestral, who was from Switzerland. It’s a portmanteau of French words, but was registered as a trademark in 1958. The patents on the actual product ran out in 1979.
No joke, Velcro could lose their trademark in the U.S. if too many people call their fasteners “velcro.” Professor Jane C. Ginsburg, the Morton L. Janklow Professor of Literary and Artistic Property Law at Columbia University School of Law, told Law Newz that this is called genericide. This can happen after too many people in the general public start to use a trademarked name without understanding that this belongs to a company. A court can rule that this is just a generic term, not something a company can control. Examples of genericized trademarks include cellophane, nylon, escalator, and shredded wheat.
“Sometimes the language just gets away from the company,” Ginsburg said. She pointed out that companies must provide an alternate name, so that competitors who make the same kind of product can use that term instead.
(This would help explain why Velcro is so insistent on people using the phrase “hook and loop.”)
[Screengrab via Velcro]