Well, this is desperate. In an effort to save their trademark from the trenches of common language, the Velcro legal team released a music video essentially begging everyone to stop using their trademarked term to describe similar, non-Velcro closures and fasteners. If you’ve ever heard a song where someone is on their knees, begging for help — or wanted to hear corporate lawyers cursing in a company statement — this is pretty much it.
First, a little background. Velcro was invented in 1941 but the company lost its patent on the product in the ’70’s. This opened the market to many competitors. What they didn’t lose was the trademark on the name. Over the years, however, “Velcro” became a catch-all phrase to describe any fuzzy fastener, regardless of whether it was made by the company itself.
When a product becomes “genericized” like this, it loses its trademark status. For example, no one is able to trademark the word “computer,” because it doesn’t refer to a brand, but a product in the market. The problem is that Velcro is a trademarked brand — it’s just that people don’t think of it as such. Legal resource UpCounsel refers to this as “Genericide,” which feels dramatic, but if a product becomes genericized (for example, bandages vs. Band-Aids) competitors could file an “abandonment action,” calling for the cancellation of the trademark. Genericized products not only lose their trademarks, but they also lose their sales, and competitors get to use that formerly trademarked branding on their own products.
Now, this brings us back to the music video. The team at Velcro created the whole thing as a tongue in cheek way to plead to the public about saying “hook and loop” instead of the company name.
The company song is nothing if not self-aware. At one point, the ‘lawyers’ in the music video hold up hook-and-loop fasteners and sing: “This is a hook and a loop, this one’s a hook, this one’s a loop. You call it Velcro but we’re telling you, this is a fucking hook and loop.”
Not only are they doing this for themselves, the team reminds us, they’re also doing it for all of those other brands before them. “So please, remember: if you need something to clean up your socks, do it with bleach and not with (bleep). If you have blood from a boo-boo you made, this is a bandage and not a (bleep). If you’re exercising with someone you’re dating, it’s exercising and not (bleep). I know that bleeped stuff is more fun to say, but if you keep saying it, our trademark goes away.” It’s actually quite smart: the songwriters relied on the fact that we all refer to the products by their “bleeped” brand names.
Whether or not their efforts will succeed, who knows (they’ve even set up a dedicated email to field any more questions: firstname.lastname@example.org). Maybe they created a movement, maybe they just created a song that will get stuck in your head for a few days. At the very least, ask your kids to undo their hook and loop fasteners on their shoes. Sure, it doesn’t have the same snap to it. But, if this depressing showcase is any indication of their desperation, we should give the Velcro people a break.