Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Invention of VELCRO ® - George de Mestral


Microscopic view of VELCRO

One lovely summer day in 1948, a Swiss amateur-mountaineer and inventor decided to take his dog for a nature hike. The man and his faithful companion both returned home covered with burrs, the plant seed-sacs that cling to animal fur in order to travel to fertile new planting grounds. The man neglected his matted dog, and with a burning curiosity ran to his microscope and inspected one of the many burrs stuck to his pants. He saw all the small hooks that enabled the seed-bearing burr to cling so viciously to the tiny loops in the fabric of his pants. George de Mestral raised his head from the microscope and smiled thinking, "I will design a unique, two-sided fastener, one side with stiff hooks like the burrs and the other side with soft loops like the fabric of my pants. I will call my invention 'velcro' a combination of the word velour and crochet. It will rival the zipper in its ability to fasten."

Mestral's idea met with resistance and even laughter, but the inventor 'stuck' by his invention. Together with a weaver from a textile plant in France, Mestal perfected his hook and loop fastener. By trial and error, he realized that nylon when sewn under infrared light, formed tough hooks for the burr side of the fastener. This finished the design, patented in 1955. The inventor formed Velcro Industries to manufacture his invention. Mestral was selling over sixty million yards of Velcro per year. Today it is a multi-million dollar industry.

Not bad for an invention based on Mother Nature.

Velcro and Trademarks
Today you cannot buy velcro because VELCRO is the registered trademark for the Velcro Industries' product. You can purchase all of the VELCRO brand hook and loop fasteners you need. This illustrates a problem inventors often face. Names can become generic terms. Many words used frequently in everyday language were once trademarks, for example: escalator, thermos, cellophane and nylon. All were once trademarked names and only the trademark owners could use the name with a product. When names become generic terms, the U.S. Courts can deny exclusive rights to the trademark.


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