Trade Marks
Posted on 28/9/2017

Velcro begs consumers ‘Don’t say Velcro’

Velcro Companies are trying to prevent their trade mark from becoming a generic term.

Velcro Companies has released a music video which aims to educate the public on the proper use of their VELCRO® trade mark.

The tongue-in-cheek video features their ‘lawyers’ asking people to stop using their brand name to refer to ‘scratchy, hairy’ fasteners and explains that these fastenings are actually called ‘hook-and-loop’.

The song continues, “We know this seems ridiculous, this is a first-world situation… And we’re asking you not to say a name, we took 60 plus years to build. But if you keep calling these ‘Velcro’ shoes, our trade mark will get killed.”

A microsite, developed as part the marketing campaign, explains that ‘Velcro’ should not be used as a noun or a verb e.g. velcro shoes or velcro gloves, because it diminishes the importance of their brand.

When a brand name is used as a generic term for similar goods or services, it can cause major problems for the trade mark owner. Trade mark law does not allow generic terms to be protected as registered trade marks and brand names that are deemed to have become generic, everyday terms could potentially lose their trade mark protection, allowing anyone to use their brand name.

The song highlights the fact that Velcro is not the only brand facing this issue: “We aren’t just doing this for us, we’re doing it for all the successful brands that get so popular, people start using the brand names the wrong way.”

Xerox, Band-Aid, Rollerblade, and Jacuzzi are just some of the brands who continue to actively defend their trade marks against misuse. In contrast, ‘escalator’, ‘zipper’ and ‘sellotape’, which once were trade marks, are now classed as generic terms.

It remains to be seen whether the video from Velcro Companies will change the way the public uses its brand name. However it serves as a reminder to trade mark owners to ensure that they do not use their trade mark in a way which could lead to it becoming generic.

Some ways to prevent this include:

  • Use your trade mark as an adjective followed by a noun, eg “BIRO ballpoint pen” and not “BIRO” on its own.
  • Never use your trade mark as a verb, eg “conduct a Google internet search” and not “Google it”.
  • Do not pluralise your trade mark, eg “AUDI motor cars” and not “AUDIs”.
  • Only use your trade mark in the possessive form if the trade mark itself is possessive, eg MCDONALD’S restaurants.
  • Use the ™ or ® symbol to make it clear that your brand name is a trade mark.

If you have further questions about trade marks and generic terms, please get in touch with one of our attorneys.


Wilson Gunn