I’ve been driving past the former Polaroid building in Waltham, Massachusetts on my way to work. The building is empty, the windows taken out, and what caught my eye is that the POLAROID sign is down. The company moved its headquarters to Concord at the end of 2007. Polaroid had already sold its landmark Art Deco building in Cambridge in 2000.
The latest move is from 864,000 square feet to 30,000 square feet and the company is down to between 100 and 200 employees, from 17000 people in the late 70’s and 8800 people before declaring bankruptcy in 2001. Polaroid is remembered in this area for underfunding its pension plan, which meant that when Polaroid filed for bankruptcy former employees lost substantial pension benefits they had worked decades for.
Polaroid announced in February that it was ceasing manufacture of its instant film; it had already discontinued the cameras. There are Polaroid-branded, foreign manufactured DVD players, TVs and other electronics, and now a new Polaroid-branded palm-sized printer manufactured by Zink called Pogo. But no more instant cameras or film.
When I drive past the building I think about how strong the Polaroid brand was. “‘Polaroid,’ plaintiff’s trademark and its trade name, is a coined or invented word, it has never been used as a trademark or trade name by any other individual or corporation, and it has acquired the status of a famous-brand trademark. . . . Plaintiff’s trademark, ‘Polaroid,’ has acquired such fame that it has appeared in many dictionaries, encyclopedias and textbooks, has been referred to in a number of United States patents issued to other than plaintiff, and has been coupled with ‘Kodak’ and other famous trademarks as an outstanding example of a technically strong, coined famous mark.” Polaroid Corp. v. Polaraid, Inc., 319 F.2d 830, 831-32 (C.A.Ill. 1963). I think it still is, a testament to the remarkable resiliency of a brand. Here’s hoping for its survival.