Velcro Companies is urging consumers and businesses, including suppliers and distributors in the promotional products industry, to use its “VELCRO®” trademark properly.
The global company recently sent a letter to an ASI distributor to notify the promo company that use of the VELCRO® term on its website violated trademark guidelines – in Velcro Companies’ view. In its communication, Velcro Companies made clear that if a business is not using genuine VELCRO®, it cannot use the term “Velcro” to describe an item. Rather, the companies must use a generic term, such as “hook and loop” to refer to the fastener. If a company uses genuine VELCRO® brand fasteners, Velcro Companies asks that the business reference the trademark in a particular manner described here.
The VELCRO® trademark is the subject of more than 200 trademark registrations in more than 150 countries worldwide. Velcro Companies is adamant about protecting its intellectual property – a difficult battle given that “VELCRO” has become a popular default term for referring to the fabric hook-and-loop fasteners/touch fasteners that the business popularized. Nonetheless, “Velcro Companies vigorously protects and enforces its exclusive rights in and to the VELCRO® mark,” the letter to the distributor said.
After Velcro Companies contacted the distributor, ASI reached out to approximately 1,100 suppliers as part of an effort to ensure the companies are properly using the VELCRO® trademark in ASI product databases. Where necessary, ASI is taking action in cooperation with suppliers to present the trademarked term correctly or using a generic term.
Velcro Companies is not without a sense of humor regarding the use of its trademark, as evidenced by this funny music video in which actors portraying trademark attorneys plead with people to refrain from using the trademarked “VELCRO®” term to refer to hook-and-loop fasteners/touch fasteners. “We want people to know there’s a real company behind the brand folks know and love and that there’s a difference between Velcro brand products and others in the marketplace,” said Velcro CEO Fraser Cameron. “There’s only one Velcro brand. Everything else is just hook and loop.”
After wondering why burdock seeds stuck to his coat and his dog while walking in the woods, Swiss electrical engineer George de Mestral began a line of study that led him to invent (in the 1940s) the product that would become known as “VELCRO®”. The term “VELCRO” is a portmanteau of the French words velours (“velvety fabric”) and crochet (“hook”). While Velcro Companies’ fasteners are now found on everything from sneakers to spacesuits, the patent expired 39 years ago, clearing the way for competitors to enter the market.
Velcro Companies’ action does not mark the first time in 2017 that a household name brand contacted promo industry firms about possible improper use of intellectual property. In the spring, YETI Coolers asserted that ad specialty businesses were infringing on its intellectual property rights through the selling of alleged knockoff drinkware products and related marketing that aimed to cash in on the Austin, TX-based company’s legally protected designs, trademarks and trade dress rights.