Pop Quiz: Can you name the #1 selling paper clip brand?


By web gangsta | Published:

paper clip cufflinksCan you name the #1 selling brand of paper clips?

It’s a simple question.  It should be obvious.

For every product in the world, there is a single top selling brand.  Some items are easy to name as the top selling brand in their categories:  Budweiser (or Bud Light if you need to be a stickler).  Coca-Cola (ditto for Diet Coke, again depending on your point of view).  Bic pens are ubiqitious, but at least you know who Bic is and that they are a pen manufacturer.

But the paper clip is even more common. 

And chances are you still haven’t thought of even one manufacturer of paper clips, let alone a brand name, by the time you’ve read this far.

So let Web Watch help you out a little bit and give you the answer:  the common paper clip’s biggest brand name is Gem, and was first trademarked in 1904 by CUSHMAN & DENISON (although possibly sold earlier).

Of course, Cushman & Denison doesn’t exist anymore, and the “Gem” brand itself has fallen by the wayside, to be replaced by the generic “gem”-style terminology that might have also befallen Kleenex facial tissues and Xerox photocopiers as brand names that have become commonplace if those companies had let their trademarks lapse as well.  

Yeah, we know.  Trick question.  We should have asked if you could name the #1 selling TYPE of paper clip, rather than a brand name.  We still think you wouldn’t have gotten it.

Web Watch had thought that Cushman & Denison was ultimately purchased, through a series of complicated company mergers and buyouts, by Newell-Rubbermaid’s SANFORD Office Products division and Berol, but even if that was tracked properly, the GEM trademark seems to have fallen by the wayside.  Pencil historians are a storied lot, it seems.  Let’s see…

  • Cushman & Denison merged with Esterbrook Pens in 1960.
  • In 1967, Esterbrook Pens was purchased by the Venus Pencil Company to become Venus-Esterbrook
  • In 1969, Berol bought Venus-Esterbrook

…and then things get weird…

From what we can tell, Berol was ultimately bought by Empire Pencils, then Sanford, and then merged with Newell-Rubbermaid in 1995.  Somewhere in the mix is Faber-Castell, who was also bought by Newell-Rubbermaid, but there appears to be some inconsistencies in the corporate histories that Web Watch is just too confused to sort out to figure out where exactly the Gem brand ended up (although the Berol website says they have the Gem brand… but Newell-Rubbermaid’s office product website, which lists all their owned trademarks, doesn’t list GEM amongst their properties.  Ah, progress.

Today, a traditional paper clip is referred to simply as a “gem”-style clip.

Quick – since now we’ve discussed the importance of not letting enforcement of a brand name lapse as those terms become commonplace, can you name at least one manufacturer of gem-style paper clips?  Someone makes them, regardless of the brand used to sell them.  And if there’s more than one manufacturer, then there has to be some differentiation in the marketplace between the #1 seller and whoever is playing catchup in the #2 role.

If you are ever find yourself trying to sell enough paper clips to become the #1 brand yourself, you will want to refer to the EARLY OFFICE MUSEUM’s IDEAL PAPER CLIP MARKETING PITCH as it focuses on how any new paper clip design must meet some, if not all, eight of these criteria:

  1. Does not catch, mutilate, or tear papers being attached
  2. Does not get tangled with other clips in the box
  3. Can hold a thick set of papers
  4. Holds papers securely
  5. Is thinner and takes less space in files or folders
  6. Is easily inserted onto papers
  7. Is lightweight, requiring less less postage when used in mailings
  8. Is less expensive than other paper clips

As for the name of a paper clip manufacturer:  check out OFFICEMATE INTERNATIONAL CORPORATION, or OIC. According to their website, they are a leader in the manufacture of office essentials.