Quick! What's that thing that babies wear under their clothes? The thing that snaps at the crotch? You: "Um, a onesie." Bingo! I mean, what else are we supposed to call it? Infant underwear body suit? Crotch-snapping baby catchall? Stain-Attracting Poop & Drool Catcher That Which Goes Under The Jammies (© HG&S)! Apparently we have to come up with a new term because the cruel overlords at Gerber are smashing their legal documents all over Etsy craft moms who dare use the word "onesie" in their listings. Gerber claims technically, that word belongs to them. Let's explore this problem.
First, a fact. The word "onesie" is indeed a trademark of the Gerber corporation. How did this fall through the cracks of our collective brain space all this time? I use "onesie" in every day conversation and have intended to reference Gerber, specifically, zero percent of the time. I thought "onesie" was like band-aid or dumpster - one of those words that might have been invented in some old timey marketing office ala Mad Men, but got absorbed into the English language. Actually, that's kind of giving Gerber too much credit. I really thought onesie was more like "shirt" or "pants" - just the normal word for an infant bodysuit. Well color me and the rest of the world wrong dong because according to Gerber's legal team, "onesie" is strictly owned by Gerber and they're coming down hard on crafting mommys on Etsy for brand infringement.
One Etsy mom who engages in the common practice of using onesie garments as a base for her craft products (who has asked to remain anonymous
due to being bullied for legal reasons) was forced to shut down her entire operation for days as she trudged through the listings one-by-one to omit that word. "It becomes downright unfair because it is being unevenly enforced across Etsy. Many sellers continue to be able to use 'onesie' in their descriptions and titles. But now when a shopper is looking for a onesie (and what else are they going to call it? I'm going with bodysuit) I guess my listings won't come up."
Is Etsy to blame? That seems weird, considering the word Barbie appears all over Etsy and as far as I know, Mattel isn't getting a penny from those listings. Why would Etsy pick and choose which brands to defend?
Burning fact #2: When you Google search "onesie" Gerber is the last result on page one, under a Norwegian company, followed by Carters, Boohoo, Wikipedia, several Etsy stores, Wikionary, Urban Dictionary and images. Yeah, way to protect your trademark, Gerber! </sarcasm font> What have you been doing the last ten years? Now all of a sudden you feel the need to reclaim your trademark, starting with the easiest target, huh? GERBER HULK SMASH MOMS. GERBER HULK MAD.
This reminds me of that time after the post-9/11 Anthrax attacks when two middle school girls were expelled from school for bringing baby powder on a school bus. It took us ten years to find Osama Bin Laden and the real Anthrax culprit still roams free, but YAY JUSTICE for coming down hard where the mighty hand of authority can easily flex its muskels: the weak.
Fact #3: There are plenty of other parties who use the word onesie with abandon [evil cackling] whom Gerber is not shaking down, such as:
- The majority Etsy shops using the trademarked "onesie". There are dozens of examples of Etsy shops sailing along, crafting refashioned onesies with no recourse. When customers search Etsy for these festooned onesies (most likely not thinking of Gerber at all) the party to unduly suffer are those Gerber handpicked for battle.
- Speaking of handpicking for battle, where is Gerber's cease and desist letter for Macklemore, who used the word "onesie" in his Top 40 hit single Thrift Shop? Surely the money earned from selling seven million copies of that single was a wee more than the craft moms are making by sewing in their living rooms while their kids nap.
- The aforementioned Norwegian company OnePiece has a whole line of one-piece products they call "onesies". Something tells me going after an international trademark protection case against a well-established company who can afford to sell rather hideous cutting edge garments for $239 a pop is a widdle bit intimidating for Gerber, not to mention expensive. There could be a legal defense that those onesies are for adults and therefore not confused with the kind for baybays, but with diapers sizes getting bigger and bigger and high heel shoes sizes getting smaller and smaller, the lines where one thing begins and another ends in fashion are getting blurred. (Hey, hey hey, cue Robin Thicke!)
- Pretty much anyone in the baby bodysuit retail market.
So if you're an international fashion company or rapping about your thrift store finds all the way to the top of the Billboard Top 100, feel free to use Gerber's intellectual property. Etsy moms sewing baby dresses in your living room? Take note. Gerber's after you like the runner up at a drag pageant.
The truth is, defending a trademark is the responsibility of a brand and if they neglect to do so, words like zipper and aspirin (once protected) become part of the language, i.e. "generic trademark" and therefore may be used freely by anyone. Gerber has already slipped on defending "onesie" and is being unfair to small business moms by trying to throw punches now.
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Filed under: Court of Public Opinion