Sarah, proprietor of the one before site, recently received a letter from some lawyers. Her offence: using the word “sellotape” on her website as a reference to, well, sellotape, without affixing the little® on the end.
This is just stupid. Apparently NZ trademark laws mean (or may one day mean – this point is unclear) that if a brand name becomes a generic term (i.e., probably at the point when carpet-bombing the marketplace with advertising for your Widget® brand widget is finally successful) the trademark can be cancelled. I don’t know the rights and wrongs of this particular law, but attacking the perceived problem by trying to curb the speech of ordinary people is just fucked in the head.
Last year when this campaign kicked off some reaction was generated, including a parody site. The lawyers justified themselves in a press release (a copy of which may be found here). Luckily they say that:
[…] they are not trying to be “heavies” or adopt bullying or intimidatory tactics over the issue.
“Sellotape New Zealand Ltd have gone to great lengths to use an educational approach, as they recognise there is no point in trying to force people not to use SELLOTAPE as a generic term”, John Hackett [their lawyer] says.
Presumably this means that there is nothing to fear. Anyway, it doesn’t look like the big trade websites like Boise are worried – so why should we? Even so, I will not be buying sellotape brand sellotape again until their lawyers cease this stupidity. There’s plenty of good product made by the competition anyway.