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A Trademark War Almost Tore Apart The Adult Baby Community

An adult diaper company wanted to trademark the term “ABDL,” and the adult babies/diaper lovers were not here for it.

Last updated on January 5, 2018, at 3:13 p.m. ET

Posted on January 5, 2018, at 3:13 p.m. ET

Rearz brand diapers for adults.
rearz.ca

Rearz brand diapers for adults.

A company that makes diapers for the adult baby/diaper lover fetish community (known as ABDL) gave up on its attempt to trademark the term “ABDL” on Thursday after message boards for the community exploded in anger last week.

Rearz, a Canadian-based supplier of adult diapers with cutesy patterns and other adult baby accessories, like pacifiers, told BuzzFeed News, “we had no malicious or strange intentions in trying to register it, but obviously it struck a nerve with people. This is a community we love and serve, and we don't want to make people feel less valuable.”

Adult babies/diaper lovers are, as their name suggests, adults who enjoy role-playing as babies or simply wearing diapers. For some people, this is sexual; for others, it’s not. There’s a wide spectrum of ABDLs — some people want to role-play as babies; some are only interested in the diapers and not the rest of the age-play. Some want to wear the diapers, some want to just see others wearing them. There are teen ABDLs and older ones, and the community includes people of all gender identities and sexual orientations.

Rearz filed to trademark “ABDL” in October 2017, but it was only this week that someone in the community noticed. At this discovery, the /r/ABDL subreddit filled with angry threads about Rearz’s trademark filings. “This is scummy. Period,” wrote one user. In another thread, angry ABDL redditors planned to ruin Rearz’s standing on Facebook by rating it one star on its business page. On a forum for adult babies called ADISC.org, one adult baby said, “Rearz is now off my shopping list.” People even made memes about the scandal.

The owner of Rearz, a woman named Laurie who asked to use her first name only to protect her family’s privacy, says this is all a misunderstanding. After learning of the community outrage, Rearz wrote a now-deleted blog post on its website explaining that it filed for the trademark to help the company’s online sales:

“Over the last several years we have faced many challenges using the term ABDL in major online marketplaces. We have ads and accounts permanently blocked on Facebook, eBay, Kijiji, Google ads with payment processors and more simply from using the term.”

Laurie said that, starting about two years ago, eBay, which had previously accounted for about 20% of her company’s business, started taking down items because it classified them as “adult content.” Sometimes Rearz’s listings for items like adult diapers and adult-size baby clothes would be allowed to stay up, but certain keywords would get the stuff delisted. eBay does allow adult items to be sold, but its policy isn’t specific about ABDL items.

In the past, Rearz’s credit card processor for its website, as well as PayPal, blacklisted Rearz. Credit card processors have varying policies about whether they will take on clients that sell adult items or pornography. Facebook has also removed Rearz’s ads. Currently, Rearz sells directly from its website, and people can visit its brick-and-mortar location outside Toronto.

Laurie believes that if she trademarked the term “ABDL,” it would help keep her ads and eBay listings online. “In order to be able to push back to some of these larger corporations that are blacklisting it, we can say, ‘hey, this isn’t just a term; this is a trademark term we have,’” Laurie told BuzzFeed News. “Because it becomes your brand name, and they don’t blacklist brand names. If we don’t have it as a brand name, then we have nothing to stand on.”

Rearz also claims that it had no plans to enforce the trademark in a way that would hurt the community. Its blog post says, “we promise to always be good stewards of the mark and to use it to build and improve the community.”

Joshua Jarvis, a trademark lawyer at the firm Foley Hoag, points out that “[Rearz’s] purported willingness ‘to allow others to have free use of the ABDL trademark’ doesn’t seem consistent with trademark ownership, which as you may know requires that a trademark owner diligently police and enforce its trademark rights so as to avoid consumer confusion.”

Rearz also pointed out they’re not the first to trademark the term — another seller, TheABDLShop.com had already trademarked the term “The ABDL Shop” for the use of selling apparel. But that trademark has some legal quirks. In their filing, TheABDLShop.com’s lawyer says that “ABDL” has no significance or meaning, even though it is a somewhat well-known term in a community of people. It’s possible that Rearz’s trademark application would have been rejected since the term is well known for a community of people interested in the world of diapers.

Several hours after BuzzFeed News spoke with Laurie about the ABDL community wrath, she told us that she had read through the message boards and decided to drop the trademark. “These are customers we care deeply about, and we don’t want to make them feel like we’re trying to take something away from them that they value.”

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    Katie Notopoulos is a senior editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Notopoulos writes about tech and internet culture and is cohost of the Internet Explorer podcast.

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