In an effort to protect valuable intellectual property, some companies are getting more creative in their approaches. UGG Holdings Inc. uses dedicated social media accounts to educate consumers about counterfeits, for example.

Velcro Companies is the latest to adopt an unconventional approach to prevent the misuse of the VELCRO™ trademark. The education initiative, announced Monday, relies on an original song to spread the word about proper trademark attribution. “You call it Velcro, but we’re begging you, this is a *bleeping* hook-and-loop,” those in the music video sing, in an effort to communicate how to use the mark.

The company has long provided guidelines on proper usage of the VELCRO™ trademark, such as only using it in connection with genuine products and always using the mark as an adjective, not a noun or verb. This educational campaign expands on those efforts by way of the video and use of social media platforms and advertising. It’s about spreading the word and creating shareable content that consumers can absorb, Julie Barry, director of global brand at Velcro Companies, said in a recent interview with Corporate Counsel.

And it’s of course about preventing the mark from losing protection. Like any company with a popular brand name, making sure the VELCRO™ trademark is used properly is critical, Alexandra DeNeve, legal consultant to Velcro Companies, said. “I think that any brand owner who has become famous … and is associated in particular with a product like this, has to be concerned about descriptive uses of their mark,” she explained. “And, of course, the generic defense is one of the defenses available to infringers, so it’s something you always have to be aware of.” 

DeNeve added: “Every brand owner has to ensure that their trademark is used properly and attributed properly to avoid descriptive and generic misuses of their mark.”

For Velcro Companies, this has historically included a trademark enforcement regime with some of the more traditional brand protection mechanisms. “We legally enforce our trademark every day against infringers in the marketplace worldwide via cease and desists,” DeNeve said. “We also engage with our customers on a daily basis all over the world to ensure that they are using and attributing the mark properly.” She added that the company relies on brand protection provider MarkMonitor Inc.

This latest campaign complements those efforts, DeNeve said. “The more people are aware of the brand, the more people are aware of how the trademark should be used, the more people are aware that there’s a distinction between VELCRO™ brand hook-and-loop and other third-party hook-and-loops. … It’s a way to enforce the mark, [without] doing it [through legal action],” she noted. “[We're] engaging people to help us protect the mark.”

Velcro Companies recognized the need to approach the trademark education campaign in a way that would appeal to their target audiences, such as millennials and do-it-yourselfers, DeNeve said. “And I believed that we had to make the message something more than just sort of the dry, straightforward legal message,” she added.

Going forward, the legal and brand departments will work together in managing the social and ad campaigns around the initiative to ensure consumers are getting the message, according to DeNeve. And then, of course, she said, legal will manage the way the mark is used in the marketplace.

“In many ways, legal is also a brand ambassador with respect to this campaign,” she observed.

Contact Jennifer Williams-Alvarez at jwilliams@alm.com.