What is velcro?
It’s that stuff you get on wallets, shoes, and gloves, to fasten them together, right? WRONG! Velcro does not exist. What you’re thinking of is ‘hook and loop fasteners’. Of course, one particular brand, VELCRO®, have made so many of these products that their brand has become synonymous with the fastening system.
But now their lawyers are desperately trying to take back the word.
They’ve launched a new campaign reminding people that VELCRO® Brand is not a verb, a noun, or a stand-alone word. You do not have a pair of velcro shoes. You cannot ‘velcro it’. And you may not fasten things together by ‘velcro-ing’ them.
The lawyers at VELCRO® Brand feel so strongly about all of this that they’ve even created a music video to explain it to people:
Other major examples are “escalator”, “aspirin” and “cellophane”.
According to VELCRO® Brand this isn’t a new issue. In fact, they’ve been doing this work for a while. We spoke to them and they revealed the reasons behind this campaign:
“This effort is part of being a responsible and active brand owner, and complements all the other ways we protect our mark. We actually ran a campaign like this in the 90s but it was print-only with a much more straightforward message. We thought it was time to do another one in the 21st century, using today’s method of communication – digital and social media.”
So, why can’t I say ‘Velcro’?
Okay, so the music video is brilliant, hilarious, and totally tongue-in-cheek, we can all agree on that. However, you might still be a little confused about why you can’t use the word ‘velcro’.
Essentially, VELCRO® Brand have a trademark on the word VELCRO. They can use that name on their products but no one else can. Their name is their seal of quality. However, if the word ‘velcro’ becomes synonymous with the kind of fastening, then judges might rule that their trademark no longer applies. They could argue that the term is just part of every day language and since people no longer associate with the brand, they should no longer have a trademark over it.
A representative from VELCRO® Brand explains:
“The purpose of trademarks is communicate to consumers the source of a product so they aren’t misled in their purchasing decisions. We are proud of the quality and performance of VELCRO® Brand products, and our customers know that when they see our brand name, they can expect a superior product that performs a certain way. If we don’t protect against misuse of our mark, then consumers could be confused if other brands’ hook and loop products are referred to as “Velcro,” which hurts our customers and affects the reputation of the VELCRO® Brand.”
Obviously that outcome would be an absolute disaster for VELCRO® Brand. It would mean that their USP would completely disintegrate. Essentially they’d become just another purveyor of accessories that use that particular method of fastening. Additionally, poor quality rip-offs could slap the word ‘Velcro’ onto their products. Consumers disappointed by these knock-offs might form a negative association and falsely blame the actual VELCRO® Brand, resulting in the latter losing business.
By maintaining control of their name, VELCRO® Brand is able to maintain quality control and positive brand association.
It all sounds like a bit of a joke, but it’s actually very serious. Persuading people not to use the term ‘VELCRO’ incorrectly, could be the difference between life and death for VELCRO® Brand.
If you’re still confused there’s a whole website devoted to the issue. It also taught us the origin of ‘velcro’: it was created by Swiss engineer George de Mestral who blended the French words “velour” (velvet) and “crochet” (hook) to create the brand name. You learn something new every day!