Creative Trademark Enforcement Part I: Velcro Companies Aim To Sing You Into Submission

by Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition

Readers of this blog are likely aware that trademark owners are required to actively monitor, police, and enforce their trademarks against infringement and misuse.  Failure to do so can result in limitation of and, in the most extreme cases, a complete loss of trademark rights.  It is thus understandable that trademark owners and their lawyers tend to handle such matters via decidedly humorless cease-and-desist letters, information campaigns, trademark guidelines, and civil actions.

However, in a world where companies increasingly interact directly with consumers via social media, and where companies’ perceived misdeeds travel across the social media landscape like wildfire, legal teams are becoming more mindful about how their various public-facing intellectual property protection activities reflect on their companies’ public images.  This is especially the case given that both consumers and the media have become more sensitive to “bullying” in its various forms. The “bully” moniker has at times been applied to (over)zealous brand owners, and companies that police their brands using particularly aggressive, scorched-earth approaches have been the subject of criticism and scorn in recent years.

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, over the past few years we have seen numerous instances of companies protecting their trademarks in creative ways – approaches that leverage humor and the brands themselves in order to achieve an acceptable legal outcome while simultaneously promoting the company and its brands, and minimizing the risk of public relations blowback.

In this new blog series (can I call it an exposé? That seems fancier), I’ll be exploring some of the more interesting takes on this approach, from singing lawyers to town criers and beyond.

This is @#$%^& Hook & Loop!

The Velcro Companies, the creators of the original VELCRO® brand hook and loop fasteners (and, disclaimer, also clients of Foley Hoag), have protected the famous VELCRO® trademark worldwide for well over sixty years.  Their trademark protection strategies are typical for the proprietors of a well-known brand, and include trademark registrations across the globe, traditional cease-and-desist letters, and anti-counterfeiting and other enforcement efforts.

In order to reinforce the differences between the brand name VELCRO® on the one hand, and hook and loop fasteners – the Velcro Companies’ first and most iconic product – on the other, the companies have in the past engaged in a variety of consumer education initiatives in various countries, including newspaper advertisements and promulgation of trademark guidelines.  Earlier this year, the legal and brand marketing departments put their heads together to devise a brand awareness campaign they hoped would make VELCRO® brand a water cooler conversation topic.

We ® the VELCRO® Brand

Partnering with Walk West and Penn Holderness, the result was “Don’t Say Velcro,” a multimedia campaign anchored by an utterly absurd, We-Are-The-World-style music video in which a bunch of company “lawyers” dramatically implore the viewer to call hook and loop fasteners by their correct generic name, and to only use the VELCRO® mark when referring to products manufactured and licensed by the Velcro Companies.  The video quickly went viral (here’s Anderson Cooper’s wry coverage), and response to the campaign from consumers (and trademark practitioners) was largely positive, drawing favorable comparisons to the Xerox anti-genericide campaigns of the early ‘80s.

Click here to view video.

Legal and Brand Marketing Synergy

Acknowledging that I’m biased, the campaign is an excellent example of a trademark protection effort pulling double duty; first, it accomplishes the legal team’s goals of reinforcing the difference between VELCRO® (the trademark) and hook and loop fasteners (the product).  Second, it accomplishes the marketing team’s goals of providing an engaging and enjoyable platform with which to interact with consumers.

The primary unfortunate side effect of the campaign was that I –you’ll see me in the back row of the chorus of mostly “lawyer” actors – have had the song stuck in my head for the past three months.  Thanks, Penn!

If you’d like to learn more about the creation of “Don’t Say Velcro,” check out the behind-the-scenes video.  I also briefly discussed my video involvement in a podcast interview with Alt Legal, to whom I also reveal my favorite television attorney (hint: it’s not Perry Mason), so you should definitely check it out!


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition

Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.