All Along, That Wasn't Really Styrofoam

Dow Chemical Company would like to clear up a massive misunderstanding. STYROFOAM™, registered trademark, is not the foamy white stuff that makes up coffee cups or takeout trays or packing peanuts or egg cartons or even movie props. No, STYROFOAM™ usually comes in light blue sheets, and real STYROFOAM™ is used for building insulation and dock floatation.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure that it's used properly," Tim Lacey, Dow's business director told the Washington Post. "We don't really know why everyone wants to land on the name Styrofoam, and why it serves as something people want to misuse."

Like Kleenex and Band-aid, the brand name STYROFOAM™ has become synonymous with a generic product, just not the generic product that the brand name actually refers to.

Dow maintains a page on its website to educate the misinformed public about STYROFOAM™'s non-role in coffee cups. It exhorts, "So next time you get a cup of java to go, remember, you can't drink coffee from a STYROFOAM cup—because there is no such thing!" As with any other large corporation with a PR problem on its hands, the company also sends out 25 to 30 cease-and-desists letters every year. During the controversy over reintroducing "styrofoam" cups in congressional cafeterias in 2011, the company's lawyers even sent letters to the House leadership for besmirching STYROFOAM™'s good name. Congressmen, after all, are not above the law.

Dow has to enforce its trademark because, legally, companies lose their trademark if they don't. So once again, everyone, Dow would really, really like for you to stop using "styrofoam" incorrectly. [Wonkblog]

Photo via MCarper/Shutterstock