Thursday, 8 July 2021

That's My Name, Don't Wear It Out!

 So here are nine products - can you name them?

Easy! you probably said

  1. Pritt stick
  2. Biro/Bic
  3. Hoover
  4. Stanley Knife
  5. Crocs
  6. Velcro
  7. Elastoplast
  8. Sellotape**
  9. Pringles
I'm aware that non-UK readers may have a few different names like BandAid, ScotchTape etc - but you probably agreed with most of my answers.
Except not one of these items pictured is the pukka, branded product - the vacuum cleaner is a Sebo, the shoes are from M&S, the crisps are from Lidl ...
Whilst you might feel honoured to invent a product which becomes a household name, your company lawyers will be frustrated when other people infringe your trademark. [I could mention caterpillar cakes....]
The ballpoint pen was invented by Hungarian journalist Lá
sló Bíró and chemist brother Gyorgy. They patented it in 1938 in Paris [and again in the US in 1943] In 1945, Marcel Bich bought the patent rights from them, and founded his BIC company. But the picture above is an unbranded copy.
James Spangler, a night watchman in Ohio suffered from asthma. He made a gadget using a fan, a silk pillowcase and a broomstick to collect the dust. He gave one to his housewife cousin Susan Hoover, to see how she got on with it. 
She loved it and showed her husband William, and in 1908 the Hoover Company was founded.  [the picture above is a Sebo] 
Sellotape was first developed in the 1930s - made from Cellophane - and that name was trademarked, hence they change from the initial C to S.
Pritt stick is marketed by the Henkel company - and the inventor's young daughter called it a "Pretty stick". Frederick Bauer developed the saddle-shaped potato snack for Proctor and Gamble in 1956 - and in 2008 his cremated ashes were interred in a Pringles tube [these are notoriously difficult to recycle due to the mixed materials used in construction]
And Velcro was patented by a swiss chemist in 1955 - the name comes from the two French words velours [velvet] and croché [hook] - a hook-and-loop fastening inspired by the hooked burdock seeds which clung to his dog's velvety coat. Velcro refers to both the product and the UK company. 
When Steph had a Saturday job in Button Boutique, Leicester, she was insistent that I called their fastenings 'hook&loop' because it wasn't genuine Velcro. 
Six of these names are now in the Oxford dictionary - Hoover, Sellotape, Stanley Knife, Velcro, Elastoplast - and biro [which has lost its trademark status, although BiC remains 
The Velcro company has produced a truly cringeworthy video just in case you didn't know how much they value their name...
Perhaps I should end my blogpost ©Angela Almond!
 ** in the US it is Scotch Tape - and in Australia it used to be called Durex - this caused great embarrassment to a teaching colleague from Oz, who told his bemused class of 15 year olds to 'stick these homework sheets in your book with some Durex later'. Poor chap returned to the staffroom, and asked us "Did I say the wrong thing?"


  1. Out of all those products only fake crocs go by name fake crocs - or usually just by name "fakes" (around here). I think it is because those brands are foreing language here, and difficult to pronounce and they are not most sold brands. But there are similar things like basic wood/paper glue goes by certain name, or all ibubrofen (or painkillers in general) are called this one brandname (it's not nurofen or advil). Can you believe, even spam isn't spam around here!

    1. I had forgotten about medications - even "aspirin" was originally a brand name. But what do you call Spam? (and surely people can manage to pronounce a simple word like that?)

    2. Spam as a trademark wasn't sold here until recently, so it has been just tinned meat!

  2. This was a really interestinb read. I did notice the branding was all alternatives on the first picture.

  3. It is interesting how brand names come to be used as every day terms, isn't it? :)

  4. I remember when everything was Xeroxed even if it was on another copying machine.

    1. That's a good one - and then you stuck one copy up with "Blu-Tac"

  5. In the US, Kleenex is a brand of facial tissue, but folks often use that name even when using a generic tissue made by another company.

    Most US folks don't use the terms hoover and hoovering--they generally call them vacuum and vacuuming.

    1. Some people here say Kleenex too. 'Hoover' is a British company - I guess in the USA, the name Hoover has totally different associations!

  6. Replies
    1. The follow up one is EVEN WORSE!!

  7. Oh I actually rather liked that video - so bad it's good, which of course is the intention. Made me smile.
    Brands are a truly difficult conundrum - at one level they are a legitimate intellectual property without which innovation quickly dies - and yet at another they can be means to monopoly profits and market protectionism. We see this most keenly with say drugs. The real problem for companies like Velcro comes when their so called superior brand is actually no different to a generic substitute (again we see this often with drugs). Most times we know when a product is truly superior and we'll pay to have that - other times we should be wary of the entreaties of lawyers. I always think, for example, that the Outward Bound Trust should stop moaning that other outdoor activity providers us the term generically, as do the general public. I went on an 'outward bound' course we say - who cares if those words should have capital letters.

    1. I confess that I did not realise the OBT was a charity specifically aimed at young people. I'm more irritated by big, rich people/companies having a go at smaller outfits for perceived copyright infringement. Eg Victoria Beckham taking Peterborough FC to court for use of the name "Posh" (theirs since 1921)and currently Oatly oat milk suing a small family farm for selling "Pure Oaty milk". And West Ham FC had to stop selling foam hammers after Timmy Mallet took them to court in 2002,claiming they were too similar to his "Pinky Punky" trademark. These court actions just strike me as greedy.

  8. I had a very young French exchange student once seriously ask me if I had any Scotch. Took a bit of explaining to realise she wanted tape to wrap a present!


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