Bye-Bye QR Code Exclusivity

By | April 4, 2012

I’ve written several posts about the QR Code trademark issue — that while the industry is using QR Codes to refer to all 2d mobile barcodes, in reality, this term is trademarked and refers only to the open-source codes created by DensoWave. The issue is much like the one for PURLs, which is also a trademarked term. We can call these URLs personalized URLs, but PURL is a term trademarked by Nimblefish.

The fact that QR Code is trademarked is annoying because it raises the issue, what do we call these codes? Right now, the clearest way to do this — at least to me — is “QR and other 2d mobile barcodes” because people associate these codes with the term “QR Code,” but yet the category is more inclusive than just this one type.

I’ve successfully relatively ignored the issue for some time, but this morning, I updated my brandable “best practices” white paper for QR and other 2d mobile barcodes ( and had to go through the entire thing and adjust the wording from start to finish. You know the end result? I removed half the references to QR Codes and made them simply “mobile barcodes” or “these codes.”

Ironic, isn’t it?  DensoWave wants to enforce its trademark to protect its name, but in order to preserve accuracy the way DensoWave desires, I had to actually remove many of the references and water down the reference I did leave in there by adding the additional language.

But . . . isn’t that what DensoWave wants?

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9 thoughts on “Bye-Bye QR Code Exclusivity

  1. Vince Mallardi

    I believe it’s a non-issue as the term became generic years ago.
    Hope all is well, and please follow our P2M initiative.

  2. Bob Herion

    A good argument could be made and very possibly won that the term “QR Code” has become genericized. Add PURL to that argument, as well. They would be in good company, though, and it doesn’t have to be a terrible place. I believe Bayer is still the top seller of Aspirin, the name they made up.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    I would certainly agree with the fact that, in the eyes of the industry, QR Code has become genericized, but if you scan back through my earlier posts on this topic, Denso Wave is apparently still contacting individual companies about what they perceive to be misuse and attempting to enforce the trademark. This happened to one of my articles written as part of one of my clients’ brandable newsletter programs, so it touched me directly!

  4. Roger Smolski

    “Denso Wave is apparently still contacting individual companies about what they perceive to be misuse and attempting to enforce the trademark”.

    I keep hearing this but my contacts in Denso tell me that they have never contacted anyone with regard to the trademark except two or three companies that try to label the QR Code as something else like HeidiCode or RogerCode.

    1. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

      That’s good to know. I had the letter from DensoWave read to me over the phone, and it was a long-time client of mine that received it, so I believe its authenticity. Perhaps it was just a rogue employee doing his or her own thing. Either way, it was on the DensoWave official template, so it came from someone inside the company.

  5. Michael Balas

    First things first, it’s not DensoWave, it’s DENSO Wave. “DENSO Wave” is indeed the correct representation of their trademarked identity. Get their name right from the onset. Without that, your credibility can and will be questioned.

  6. Heidi Tolliver-Walker Post author

    Granted, the space should be there between “Denso” and “Wave,” but in most cases, editorials do not represent company names in all caps as you suggest. Only advertising and marketing materials do that. When it comes to magazine and other publication editorial, typically, all-capped names are put back into sentence case — just as the (TM) is not used with trademarked terms. Standard fare from AP and other stylebooks.

  7. Patrick Whelan

    Yes, a good argument could be made about it being genericized but it will cost you money. A lot of money.

    I personally think this is much to do about nothing but I am in receipt of a letter that DENSO Wave sent to a printing company regarding attribution when using the term QR Code.

  8. Mike Caha

    Heidi. Being someone who follows the QR Code trademark issue closely, what is your view of this DENSO Wave statement: “Poster/Ticket – The trademark comment in anywhere does not effect for the design is acceptable?” It seems like there room for a great deal of interpretation all the way to the point of saying “putting the trademark comment anywhere on the print piece affects it so I naturally cannot include it.”

    FYI, I found the quote on the website ( – which seems to be operated by DENSO Wave based on the domain whois and other factors.

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