It has been passed down from on high, that the makers of Romex® have asked us to stop using the name generically in place of nonmetallic sheathed cable. They've asked us to capitalize the brand name, and include the registered trademark symbol, when referencing the product in posts.

I see a couple ways to handle this. We could simply replace all occurrences of the text "romex" with "Romex®", or we could replace it with the generic name "nonmetallic sheathed cable" (or some form of it).

I don't think that they've requested for us to change past posts, but all future occurrences should be handled. So how should we handle this situation?

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  • Just to give background - I did a few interns for advertising/marketing firms in college. At the time I wrote a few ads for Band-Aids. They were in danger of losing their name usage to other companies. We had to run a few ads that educated people that Band-Aids were not bandages... I am sure Romex has the same issue now and must prove they are educating the public on their name and making sure it is used right. No company would care otherwise - I am sure hundreds of companies would love to be in the same situation. But we don't call a certain tool a Makita or Dewalt. – DMoore Jul 21 '15 at 15:16
  • @DMoore What was \ how were they in danger? I thought they'd just have to fail to renew. Is there precedent for a brand name becoming [public domain]? -Not sure if that's the right word. – Mazura Jul 22 '15 at 20:51
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    @Mazura - Several companies went to court to use the "Band-Aid" name. Actually at the time the public didn't even know what an adhesive bandage was (well less than 50%). Band-Aid won their court battles but had to spend a certain amount on educating the public that a "Band-Aid" was a type of adhesive bandage and that other brands weren't Band-Aids. Kleenex, Xerox, Oreo, and other companies have gone through similar things but not so sure that it ever got as bad as Band-Aid - Romex is damn close because most people have no clue what NM cable is... – DMoore Jul 23 '15 at 3:54
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    @Mazura - cont... this was also at a time when there were hardly ever pictures on packages - at least not good ones. Imagine going into the drug store and seeing a package with Band-Aid written and then a white box next to it says adhesive bandages... what the hell do I need adhesive bandages for? So if the other companies prove Band-Aid is the new term and not a brand name they use it. Copyrighted names are only applicable if the copywriter takes means to differentiate their name from the core product. – DMoore Jul 23 '15 at 3:56
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    1) At 5'8", I've never been called "on [or anything else] high" before, but it made me feel pretty important. 2) To be clear, I'm not worried about legal liability to a potential Southwire suit. As a company rep, my take was that they asked very politely, and so in cases where it doesn't undermine clarity or findability, I'd suggest respecting their request as a best practice, but not a Law of the Site. wrt "Romex", a key question is what users will search for - don't avoid it if that's the key term. As a user, I know @bib (answer below) has some real insight into this stuff IRL. – Jaydles Jul 23 '15 at 20:06
  • Just to call out one key point: I would not avoid a term that likely will be the one most folks are looking for. It's better to find a way to include something like "Romex (or generic NM...)" if that's what gets the right info to those in need. – Jaydles Jul 23 '15 at 20:08
  • If we can't use Sawzall®, then we shouldn't use Romex®. (Not that I agree with this in the first place, but if it becomes site policy, so be it.) – Mazura Jul 23 '15 at 21:20
  • Well, who's "us," really, when you're dealing with what is essentially a public forum? – Craig Jul 25 '15 at 4:48
  • Where are the instructions going to be for how put the circled "R" trademark symbol after the word Romex(r)? (See, I was trying to see if the SE code would automatically convert (r) to the symbol--bummer). Yes, I know how to put that symbol in, but it isn't second nature for anybody who isn't typing it all the time. It's kind of a pain in the neck, let's be honest. Although I do tend to agree with the sentiment of calling things by their correct names. – Craig Jul 25 '15 at 4:55
  • @Craig, How do you put it in? I couldn't get the alt-Unicode thing to work. – Mazura Jul 30 '15 at 2:40
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    @Mazura It's Alt+0174, at least if you're on Windows®. You could always use the charmap app, or the equivalent on your platform of choice, to cut and paste it. But this actually kind of goes to my point, no? ;-) – Craig Jul 30 '15 at 6:19

In my opinion, using the form "Romex®" feels a bit like advertising. Because of this, I would lean towards using the generic term instead.

Secondly, I think in most cases folks are not specifically talking about the Romex® brand of cable. Instead they are asking about nonmetallic sheathed cable in general. So I don't think there's any danger in changing a post's intent, by replacing "Romex" with "nonmetallic sheathed cable" (or similar).

Nonmetallic sheathed cable can be referred to also as

  • Nonmetallic cable
  • Type NM cable
  • Type NM
  • Type NM-B
  • NM cable
  • NM-B cable
  • NM
  • NM-B
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    Since this is a DIY exchange and not an electrician's exchange, this might, or will, become confusing for people asking NM related questions. I think the reality is "Romex" is, and will continue to be, a much more effective way to communicate "NM cable" than actually saying "NM cable" to homeowners and DIYers. What are the repercussions for continuing to allow the use of "Romex"? It's become a trade synonym just about everywhere, much like Kleenex to "facial tissue". Is Southwire going an Internet purging crusade? – mjohns Jul 17 '15 at 2:46
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    @mjohns Not sure what the motivation behind this is, all I know is they want their brand name to appear capitalized and with the trademark symbol. – Tester101 Jul 17 '15 at 3:02
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    @mjohns Kleenex® sues people regularly. Not ordinary people, but SE is a publisher, even if it uses stuff written by ordinary people. Many other brand owners do as well. I like Tester101's suggestions. I would recommend saying something like nonmetallic (NM) cable the first time in a post and thereafter using NM. – bib Jul 20 '15 at 20:17
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    @mjohns by the way, the owners of linoleum and elevators (and many others) lost their trademarks by failing to enforce this rule. Kleenex, Xerox and many other diligent owners did not. – bib Jul 20 '15 at 20:19
  • @bib I personally try to use terms like NM instead, but I just see this being difficult to curb while still being understandable for a lot of users who aren't frequenters or aren't well versed in electrical. Good points about trademarks. Puts things in perspective :) – mjohns Jul 20 '15 at 20:20

The product name, Romex, is a trademark. It is owned by Southwire (another trademark). They have used it since 1923. You can see their registration here.

There is a social purpose for trademarks. They were developed to protect consumers. A controlled trademark or guild mark assured the buyer that the stuff was up to some standard (controlled by the mark's owner or guild). If counterfeits came along, they were shut down. The idea is that a shoddy manufacturer or seller cannot fool buyers by using a well respected product's trademark. A secondary purpose is to protect the interest of the respected manufacturer. This is generally called goodwill.

If true Romex® develops a reputation, crappy stuff should not be able to call itself by the same name, fool the buyer into getting wire that does not have the durability or the pull ease or some other characteristic, as the brand name. If the competing product is just as good, it can establish its own brand and emphasize its better price.

Yes, calling products by the leading brand name may be convenient, and yes, I know you think there is no harm, but there is. A trademark owner must protect (called policing) its mark or it loses control over it. Once that happens, it loses its right to own it and protect it. When the brand becomes so common that it is substituted for the product category name, it is said to become generic. When that happens, consumers are hurt because they lose that quality assurance, and the company is hurt because its efforts to distinguish itself are lost.

What is legally required is not to use someone's trademark without permission. Whether or not Southwire decides to sue, the right thing is to follow the rules.

These restrictions apply to competing brands, and also to people and companies who distribute information about the products in question. The restrictions do not apply to individuals in their everyday speech.

At SE, we are disseminators of information. And we hold ourselves out to be experts. We need to avoid confusing the public by mislabeling generic non-metallic cable as Romex® (or any other generic by the category leader's name). And as our reputation and scope expands, we become a more powerful agent of information. If we misuse the brand, it will become generic that much more quickly. We become part of the problem.

@Tester101 has an excellent approach. I respectfully disagree with @Mazura.

P.S. As noted in my earlier comment, some trademarks have been lost because of lack of policing, such as elevator and linoleum. Many other brands are very firm in policing their marks, such as Kleenex. You will note that competing brand of facial tissues call their products facial tissues, not Kleenex. If they did, Kimberley-Clark would sue.

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    Sheesh. A DIY smarty-pants is bad enough, but one who also seems to be professionally trained in IP Law may be too much to endure. :) – Jaydles Jul 23 '15 at 20:01
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    @Jaydles That's smarty-pants-on-high to you! – bib Jul 23 '15 at 20:56

What should we do? Whatever is legally required, e.g.:

Nothing, until that suggestion becomes an injunction. Southwire knows everyone would rather call it romex, and as mjohns points out, any other word used would provide the most confusion to home owners. Confused home owners is no skin of SW's backs, people being unaware that there is the name brand stuff, is. That's a lose\lose for us and a win\meh for them.

"Romex®" is advertising, it's what they want: you to not forget that there is a brand name of NM-B, and maybe that stuff's better 'cause... well, because life is the search for more money.

What is Romex?: (acmehowto.com)

Romex is a brand name that has become a generic name for flexible, sheathed, insulated wire.

Will a script be written to handle this or is your new name, Editor101?

Note to Southwire: Now I'm not even going to capitalize it anymore. How you like them apples? Okay, serious question: Is your company OK with the fact that since SE is unwilling to advertise for you, we would confusingly edit our questions to state NM-B in lieu of Romex? -Yea, yea... I'd prefer a lot of things, too.

P.S- Your website is down so I left this here for you... o.o

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    No need to be nasty. From what I heard, they were very nice in their request (of the exact details I am not privy). – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:01
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    If you take a look at the User section of the site, I think you'll find that my name could already be Editor101 ;) – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:05
  • Also... In my opinion, we should be using the proper names for things anyway. It irks me to no end when folks say "110", "220" (unless they actually mean 220), "bx cable", and a few others I can't think of now. In my opinion, using incorrect terminology to pander to the ignorant, is not the way to teach. – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:11
  • @Tester101 Copyrights irk me to no end, I thought it was quite cheeky, please feel free to edit out anything that could be construed as offensive. I agree, we (you and me) should be calling things by their real names, but what about Joe Smoe. "They said I shouldn't use romex, and instead use NM-B." {Insert blank look from 14yo HD employee here}. – Mazura Jul 21 '15 at 2:18
  • We were Joe Shmoe once. It was only through education, that we advanced beyond that level. – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:25
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    Using the correct terminology to pander to lawyers, ain't my thing ;P – Mazura Jul 21 '15 at 2:25
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    I tend to agree with you there. But at the same time, I'm in favor of using the correct terminology no matter what the lawyers say. – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:29
  • @Tester101 Right but before all this, did you prefer calling Romex, NM-B? For noobs I mean, not for conversations between you and sir Petey. – Mazura Jul 21 '15 at 2:34
  • I don't think I've ever called it "Romex", but I could be wrong about that. I tend to call it nonmetallic sheathed cable, or NM cable. – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:41
  • In fact I also tend to use "ungrounded", and "grounded", instead of "hot" and "neutral". Though I do tend to pander to noobs, by putting "hot" and "neutral" in parentheses. If I do use "neutral" or "hot", I tend to put them in quotes. – Tester101 Jul 21 '15 at 2:43
  • @Tester101 Your commitment to nomenclature is commendable. Your answer's better: just stop calling it Romex®. – Mazura Jul 21 '15 at 2:51
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    to reinforce @Tester101's point, I've never seen such a polite, zero-threat, respectful request from a lawyer. I'm not worried about legal liability; I actually did something because they made me want to help. – Jaydles Jul 23 '15 at 20:20
  • For the reasons outlined in @bib's excellent answer, or otherwise? – Mazura Jul 23 '15 at 21:25

None of the names being used for "normal cable" has any meaning to a person in the UK.

In the UK Romex is a resin-based jointing system for all types of paving!

“Twin and earth” is used to describe what I think Romex may be.

(I have now got to get the Hover out to do the dysoning:-)

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  • Did yo mean "Hoover"? ;-) As in get out the Dyson to Hoover the floors? – Craig Jul 29 '15 at 0:08
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    I think this is actually a good point. "romex" means something totally different to people in at least one other country than it does to somebody in the States who may colloquially use "romex" generically to refer to NM electrical cable just because the Rome wire company made it famous here back in the day. So calling it "romex," without capitalizing it, slapping the trademark symbol on it, and maybe even making a hyper link out of it for good measure is probably confusing some non-trivial percentage of the users of this forum. Romex® – Craig Jul 29 '15 at 0:13
  • Capitalizing it and slapping the trademark symbol on it has no benefit, as it is a trade mark in the UK, just for a totally different product. I think it is more confusing presenting it as a trade make, as in the UK, it is a trade make but not a generatic name. – Walker Jul 29 '15 at 8:03

I think the best/easiest thing to do is add an entry into the editor that automatically changes romex to Romex®. Or alternatively change romex to "NM electrical wire" or whatever. I don't think this meta discussion really means much unless the tech backs it up because we can't expect people to read this before posting nor remember this discussion.

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    We surely cannot educate new users with all our idiosyncrasies before they post, and to try would be ludicrous. These types of discussions are for the editors, and other more involved users. I ask questions like this, so I personally know how to handle edits. I make tons of edits, and I like to do my best to insure they positively impact the community. The best way to do that, is to ask the community how to handle it. – Tester101 Jul 26 '15 at 4:10
  • @Tester101 I think adding an entry to automatically change "romex" to Romex® is a non-starter. See the post on this page about how "romex" is a resin-based paving compound in the U.K. I do agree that it should usually be referred to as "NM cable" or "non-metallic sheathed cable" and where appropriate, the brand name should be specified as Romex® (capitalized and with the trademark symbol on it), the way Southwire requests. But clearly this is the domain of editors and active participants and the occasional poster isn't likely to have this awareness. – Craig Jul 29 '15 at 0:18
  • @Craig I agree that it should not be automatic, and that the burden to make the changes are on the editors and more active users. – Tester101 Jul 29 '15 at 0:29

Since Romex® is a well known name used conversationally to refer to any NM-type cable, I am for changing all references to the proper capitalization with the registered trademark symbol at the end.

The proper casing and marking of the word is not advertising - converting every occurrence of the word to a link to their site would be advertising. It's really no different than spelling someone's name correctly, people think you are rude if you don't. Don't get me started about people who reply to emails from Steven by addressing me as Stephen.

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