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September 2, 2008

A Cloud of Vague Naming Besets Trademark Law

"Trademark [law]," according to the Paul Goldstein, a Stanford law school professor quoted in the New York Times, is the "sleeping giant of intellectual property." This conclusion was made for many reasons, but the one that catches my eye is the quest by companies to seek names for products that simply are not that well defined.

The two examples cited in the article are "Cloud Computing," which Dell unsuccessfully tried to trademark, and "Live Mesh," which Microsoft is currently trying to trademark.

cloud computing copy.pngCloud Computing, an innovative offsite Internet service, is a great name because it speaks to the so-called "computer cloud" (all the devices out there that access the Internet). It's also a term that has been floating around the geek world for some time.

Live Mesh, on the other hand, is a super application that is meant to keep all of your web devices in sync, although it looks like the term Open Mesh is already in use.

It looks to me like tech companies, are discovering that names are being registered faster than ever before, especially after running into trademark issues on products that customers might have a hard time understanding, much less buying. Never mind the difficulty of "dot-whatevers," we're seeing a virtual race to get names into the books before the product development is even finished.

virgincola.pngThis is nothing new, of course. Companies in more traditional fields are already borrowing from different markets of brand naming to get their own trademarks. For example, "Mango" is a fashion line and there is a "Virgin" cola out there alongside the airline.

Business Line in India asks "Will we soon have motorcars called Sweat and deodorants named Cylinder & Piston?"

Of course we will. Names from different categories is one of the factors that helps keep product and brand naming interesting.

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Posted by William Lozito at September 2, 2008 8:58 AM
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