Autres Unix, autres moeurs

Unless you are as powerful as Disney, Coca-Cola, or the Olympic Committee, worldwide and universal trademarks don't exist; the same name can often be used in trade for completely different things. Details depend on the country, the category of goods offered, and of course the tenacity and wealth of the trademark holder. I recall, evidently correctly, that Unix Pacific, the organization created to distribute and support AT&T (later USL) Unix systems in the Asia/Pacific area had to step carefully around trademark issues with Marantz in Japan.

UNIX® was registered by Bell Laboratories as a trademark for computer operating systems. Today this mark is owned by Open Group, who are happy to tell you about how they would like it to be used.


I decided to gather whatever not-our-Unix items I could; here is the current harvest. Other sightings and scans gratefully accepted.

When you look up the four letters in the search engines of the US Patent and Trademark Office, you find many products that use the name in some way. Many clearly refer to the OS, but others seem independent. For example, to clip one out, we find

 Translation: The english translation of PANNOLINI is "diapers".
 Owner Name: (REGISTRANT) Pannolini de Mexico, S.A. de C.V.

Evidently, there are various products bearing the Unix name that are completely unrelated to computer software, and their manufacturers seem to have invented the same name independently. Some, like the diapers, are recorded in the US; the ones below are advertised, delivered, or photographed products from around the world.

The Pannolini Unix diapers are not a mere will o' the wisp; one correspondent supplied an image of the box, and the current owner of this instance of the name responded to mail to their webmaster. See below for the pic and the tale.

Japanese Unix food container

Noel Hunt kindly supplied a scan of the label on a Unix brand food container (resembling Tupperware in the US); it is from Japan. We previously had one of the actual containers, but it seems to have been lost. Ours was much smaller than 630ml; instead it was sized to contain a single sushi.

Brett of BNL bought the 1.35l model in a Japanese super market in Fort Lee, NJ (discount price USD4.59) and sent a scan, omitted here.

Spanish Unix fire extinguisher

A photo of the Unix fire extinguisher, apparently Spanish in manufacture, was taken by Christer Gustavsson on Gran Canaria. Lars Brinkhoff reported this copy. Noel Hunt happened upon a different photo of the same product.

British Unix Bookshelving 1

There has been a Unix brand of modular book shelving from the UK. Karri Kalpio sent a scan of this ad. I am especially taken by its observation that "Some people open all the windows; wise wives welcome spring by moving the UNIX.... UNIX make moving not pain but almost pleasure, and are easily moved from room to room, upstairs or down.... they're not expensive, just hard to make."

I showed a prototype of this page to Brian Kernighan, and he forthwith dug into his files and found an original paper version of a different ad for the same product. This page is getting too graphics-rich, so I won't display it separately. It lacks the quotable phrases from the one displayed, but it is available for viewing. Kernighan's, as we shall see, dates from at least 10 years after than this one.

The scan displayed here (which has been res-reduced) seems certain to derive from one by Ian Utting at University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. He has a scan of the same advert, and indeed the original page from which it was made. His original came from Housewife magazine, p.127, April 1941, Vol 3 No 4, published by Hulton Press, London. Ian's page is here; click on his ad to see an unreduced version.

Utting's sighting represents the earliest reference I've seen, and it comes with a reliable date.

Italian pen/pencil ad

Lars Brinkhoff, Jorgen Grahn and others pointed out Universal, an Italian company manufacturing Unix pens, pencils and other office supplies. They have a full WWW page. An image (from Grahn) is illustrated. Other representations of various products are visible at Lars Brinkhoff's site. Inside the home page of Ruut, the computer club at Lappeenranta University of Technology in Lappeenranta, Finland, appears a photo of Tomi Lapinlampi of the club, bearing Unix glue. (The label says "general glue.") You will need Finnish language skills for most of their pages.

Another photo of the same product was sent by Tommi Hassinen, of the University of Kuopio, likewise in Finland.

This Italian company seems to have strong marketing in Scandinavia. I just received from Karri Huhtanen this note, accompanied by a photo:

We (me, Sami Keski-Kasari and Heikki Vatiainen) were trying to compose a gift for one of our friends. The idea was to gather certain objects that would represent the things needed in Symbian mobile software programming like glue, gum, java, iron wire, duct tape and of course theory book.

Sami went to local cheap general store chain called HalpaHalli to get some of the things needed and found this UNIX-branded glue among other things shown also in picture:
tarpeellista-tavaraa.jpg (roughly translated things needed).

glue kit

Mark Horton, long at Bell Labs and now with Avaya, kindly sent an unopened package of five UNIX 2001 ballpoint pens, purchased in the US. It seems to be from the same company, so they sell here as well.

Others keep seeing their products: e.g. Brad Knowles, who commends the company's line of highlighter pens.

Rob Wolfram has just reported seeing Unix Line pens in Suriname, on the northern coast of South America.

I have more than enough pictures of their products!

Finnish dryer rack

Exploring further the Finnish connection, though one which has no evident relationship to other Unix products: Kimmo Ketolainen sent a scan of an ad for a Unix Drying Rack, marketed in Finland. The text (which I cropped) promises "Quick and easy to install ... All in all, Unix can support up to 12kg of laundry ... Up to 12m of drying space."

Unix Paint Thinner

Federico Ulivi of Milan sent a photo of another Italian product, whose marking translates to "Nitro-based antifog thinner." He collected the can after it was used as a thinner during repainting of hand rails in the office of a former employer. Chimica CBR don't seem to be associated with Universal of the office supplies.

Ralf took this photo on a visit to Morretes, Paraná, Brazil. He says that the frame on which the bucket is resting is used to store trash out of the reach of animals until it's picked up.

Unix fungicide poster

Fazal Majid captured the large photo during a visit to Caen, France around 1994; it depicts a poster on the wall of a flower shop. Just after he sent it to me, he alerted me to the then-current home site of the product; the second picture was captured from there. He and I were both charmed by its phrase "There are those who take risks, and those who take UNIX."

Since then, the company has changed hands, as was kindly pointed out by Khalid Baheyeldin. The product is still present on the Syngenta web site, but accompanyied by less interesting advertising. Still, if you can handle PDF pages, you could check one of the ads.

When Majid sent the first image, I guessed (perhaps hoped) that the anti-fungal properties of the product were intended for the personal, perhaps intimate, use of the nouvelle génération. It is in fact a product for fungal diseases of wheat and barley.

Christian Lefebvre recently sent another ad image for the same product (not shown), but we both like the main text words: "Unix en granulé dispersable, la formulation de l'avenir," or "Unix in dispersible pellets, the formulation for the future."
Unix fungicide logo
UK Unix fungicide ad

Andy Ward subsequently sent along an image of a UK ad for (presumably) the same product. It advises us that "UNIX® [is] the essential partner for eyespot or rynchosporium control in barley." Well said.

Unix TV antenna, Iran

Dick Snippe of the Netherlands took a photo of a box containing a Unix TV antenna. It was outside a shop on the main street of Kerman, in eastern Iran. If you look carefully, you'll see that it comes "with mixer," and on the page from which I captured the image, the caption (tr. from Dutch) asks "Yes, Unix WITH mixer! Does linux come with a mixer?"

For sake of conserving space I cropped out a poster of Khatami, the relatively moderate President of Iran. Dick remarked in e-mail that one could detect the political sympathies of shops' proprietors by seeing which leaders' portraits were displayed. This one, he observed, was evidently rather liberal, since the more conservative leaders didn't appear at all. Other shops often have smaller pictures of the more conservative leaders, even if the largest is of Khatami.

Dick also reports that attempts to engage the shopkeeper about the fine points of Unix antennas or operating systems failed for lack of common language.

Thanks to Wilco Noordermeer for sending the initial pointer.  

Israeli massage appliance

Also via Kernighan, there is a scan of an Israeli ad. At first we guessed it to be a shower appliance, but Amos Shapira, reading the Hebrew, corrects this: it says "The Olympic Massage Machine from Korea has arrived." He suspects (and I agree) that it might be a product of Unix Electric Company from Korea, mentioned below.

JC van Winkel uncovered a much more extensive Unix massage connection, specifically a Unix Massage Chair, which claims that "The Unix 501 offers the tapping, kneading, and rolling massage of a professional massage therapist." If this link stops working, a WWW search will turn up many more suppliers of these chairs.

Liam Stitt, from Alberta, Canada happened on this product independently.

And if you want more personal attention and an actual massage therapist, the UNIX Massage Shop, based in North Hollywood, CA, offers chair massage done by human attendants instead of gadgetry in the chair. [regrettably, this place seems to have disappeared from the WWW.]


UNIX eyeglass frames

An ad for Rodenstock Unix eyeglass frames was captured by Scott Schwartz at his optometrist's office in 1996. The frames themselves didn't seem appealing, he regrets to report.

Maybe they didn't sell well. does feature their eyeglass products, but have deemphasized the Unix brand to the point of invisibility. /japanlaw


UNIX eyeglass shop

James of Lab6 sent a photo of an eyeglass shop in Ipanema, Rio de Janiero, Brazil. I wonder if they sell the Rodenstock frames?


Korean Unix Hair Dryer

Unix Electric Company of Korea, in business since 1979, has a diverse line of appliances for the body, the kitchen, and the home. One is illustrated here. I have no idea whether they are a part of a chaebol with Union Metals, also from Korea (see below), or are just sharing parts of their company name as well as the product mark.

Thanks to Frank Mango for the pointer and the image.

More recently, Brian Walden (who photographed the peluqueria in Costa Rica shown below) ordered security cameras for his company, and they turned out to be shipped from Unix Business Systems, based, it appears, in Korea, but with a distributor in Los Angeles. He sent pix of the shipping box and their mailing label, proving their existence but I'll omit them until the elusive WWW sites referring to this product become more readily accessible.

Hungarian Auto Parts Bartok Istvan alerted me to the Hungarian auto-parts trading company Unix-Trade; their logo mostly suppresses the Hungarian or English rendition of -Trade in favor of the Unix part.

Istvan tells me that Autóalkatrészek does mean auto parts, and that their slogan És az autó biztosan megy tovább... is approximately "And the car keeps on going well..."

Mexican Diapers

Charles Waldman supplied a scan of a package of Unix Diapers. It came to him from as "something that's been making the rounds via email, it was forwarded to me by a co-worker..." The box doesn't discernably mention Pannolini, but the package says "By Drypers" and the Drypers site shows many distribution points outside continental US, including Puerto Rico, which could readily explain Spanish packaging.

A mystery awaited unveiling, so I sent e-mail to the webmaster of the Drypers WWW site, and received the following response, both satisfyingly detailed and friendly:

Drypers corporation bought Panollini in 1995. Pannolini previously sold diapers under the Unix name, and we bought all rights to the name. We have been selling under the Unix by Drypers logo. Unix is a takeoff on "unisex" which means diapers for both boys and girls. Prior to 1995 almost all diapers were sold in boys or girls versions, but all companies switched to unisex about that time. There are many derivations throughout the world. Proctor and Gamble sells "Uni" in many locations, for example. None of this has anything to do with Unix computers.

Unix rental van

Stefan Katerkamp from Düsseldorf sent a here-cropped photo of the rental van he used to move house in Germany. He reports that the service was good (he chose it because of the name) but regrets to say that the company is now called Europa Service.

UPDATE! Alides Meijering (of Lucent in Germany) reports that Europa Service hasn't abandoned the Unix name; he sent a photo (March 2003) of a branded van, and kindly pointed out further evidence in the form of the URL for the company.

Costa Rica salon

Brian Walden photographed this peluqueria (hair salon / barbershop) in San José, Costa Rica, in 1994. He reports that it had disappeared by 1996, but somehow he has helped confirm the unexpected association of the Unix name with body-care technology. One also suspects the same "unisex" association made explicitly in the notes on the diapers above.

The colored spots aren't Xmas lights; he believes they owe to X-ray damage to his film at the airport.

From much further south, Wanderlei Antonio Cavassin pointed me to a similar, but evidently a bigger enterprise in São Paulo, Brazil: the Unix Cabeleireiro, which seems to be a much tonier place. It continues the tradition of Unisex, Unix, and haircare.

Hair salon, Yokohama

Jim Hague took a couple of photos of another hair salon near the railway station in Yokohama, Japan. He suspects it to be part of a chain boasting a Franco-Japanese flair, with its own Unix-branded WWW site online.

Dave Brown also sighted (and investigated) the salon near the Yokohama rail station, and has another photo of the salon, which he reports is actually located on the third floor of an otherwise unassuming office building. They seem to have lots of signs, however.

The personal-care theme spread to Freeport, Illinois in the form of manicuring; J. P. Hindin captured this one. He has the original. nails/waxing/facials, Illinois

Unix Nails of Pflugerville, TX And it also spread to the vicinity of Austin, TX. Dave Wieboldt found a Yellow Pages ad for a manicure shop. The WWW version can be looked at as long as the link lasts. Dave even photographed the shop itself; the photo is here.

Furniture store, Chicago

Paul Suda sent a (here-cropped) photo of a furniture store in northwest Chicago, IL. It is hard to find a connection between it and other themes found on this page, though one might work a story connected with Korean massage furniture.

A correspondent informs me that the Hangul lettering transcribes/translates to "Eric's Furniture." I don't know what to make of that.

Israel dance club Robert Hofner sent a photo of the sign adorning a new establishment in Ashdod, Israel. The local paper, he says, reported its opening with the note that "Unix is some sort of computer language."

Textile manufacture, Spain

Jordi Sanfeliu sent some photos of signs at an old manufacturer of fabrics in Mataró, Spain, near Barcelona. Besides the alta calidad promise, another sign, not pictured, describes the company as a "Fabrica de Tejidos Fantasias y Estampados," and lists some of their specialties. If you need a supplier of batistas, popelines, lonetas, viellas, or similar things, this is the place.

Jordi promises to investigate, but the door was locked when he visited.

Union Metals big

Union Metals Company of Korea uses the Unix name for various products. The large one is their logo as recorded with USPTO, while this Union Metals moving is a tiny clip from their home page. When you see the whole thing, you capture the full experience of rotating Unix faucets.

Established [in spirit] 1 Apr, 2000; modified June 2003.