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The curse of being too catchy

2nd Oct 2017

The Velcro Companies’ legal team has recently hit the headlines with a musical plea to consumers to stop using the word VELCRO. The music video, released at the end of September 2017, features actors portraying the legal team. Their song calls for people to refrain from referring to VELCRO and instead use the term ‘hook-and-loop’. But why would a trade mark owner want consumers to stop using their mark?

Hook-and-loop fasteners, commonly sold as strips of fabric, feature tiny hooks on one side and tiny loops on the other. The hooks catch the loops when the two sides are brought together, securing them to one another. Velcro Companies offer a wide range of hook-and-loop fastening products which are sold under their VELCRO brand.

The essential function of a trade mark is to act as an indicator of origin. A trade mark’s job is to inform consumers of the source of the products or services before them. If, as a result of the actions or inactivity of the owner, a mark comes to be used in trade as the common name for a product or service for which it is registered, it runs the risk of losing the ability to perform this essential function. Consumers seeing or hearing the mark may think of the product or service in general, rather than the specific product or service offered by the trade mark owner. This renders the mark vulnerable to revocation on the grounds that it has become generic (as per S. 46(1)(C) Trade Marks Act 1994; Art. 58(1)(c) Regulation (EU) 2017/0001).

Velcro Companies has expressed, albeit via somewhat unusual means, an issue which has affected owners of some of the world’s best-known trade marks. It can be the success of a mark which leads to it becoming a generic term used by consumers and prevents it from being able to function as in indicator of origin – take for example GRAMOPHONE ([1910] 2ch 423) or SHREDDED WHEAT ([1940] 57 RPC 137).

The curse of being too catchy, or becoming generic, has long plagued trade mark owners. There is a fine line between ensuring your trade mark is well-known enough to be successful, but not so widely used that it becomes a generic term for the goods or services in question.

Velcro Companies has chosen to highlight this issue in an innovative and humorous way. The song in their video claims to be coming to the rescue of other successful brands, such as BAND-AID. It has had over 375,000 views and faced mixed reviews.

Whether Velcro Companies’ efforts will help rescue their mark from becoming generic remains to be seen. Nevertheless, they have at least succeeded in bringing this issue into the spotlight. Launching a video like this is not only a clever bit of marketing for the VELCRO brand, but also a fresh approach to educating consumers about the legal issues which surround the products and services they encounter all around them. The music video simplifies a complicated legal issue and presents it in a way which is both entertaining and easy to digest.

At Reddie & Grose LLP we are always looking for new ways to communicate with our clients and contacts – be it through our website, twitter page or blog posts. We always try to tailor the way we communicate to meets the needs who we are speaking to and love to hear any suggestions for how we can make the information and advice we provide as accessible as possible.

This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.

Filippa Evans
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Would you like to know more? You can talk to Filippa Evans who will be able to help. Call +44 (0)20 7242 0901


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