Naming Rights: June 2008 Archives

dotcom.pngICANN's announcement last week that they will approve many more domain naming extensions, commonly referred to as top-level domains, or "the familiar '.com' or '.org' suffixes at the end of websites," is exciting news for the future of the Internet, but may possibly cause just as many problems as it solves.

I fall into line with Ben Worthen at the Wall Street Journal who points out that ICANN's expansion of possible domain names will certainly herald a change in the way businesses experience and use the Internet.

I think that those companies that already are established in the dot-com world are unlikely to trade up, but the real problem will come when outside parties try to take trademarked names and use them as Internet monikers, something that is already a concern in Australia where few companies will be able to protect their brand naming by buying up "dot whatevers."

Frankly, any small or medium business will be locked out, regardless of locations.

Local cities may even get their own suffixes, while the proposal also allows suffixes that do not have roman letters, giving China and Japan something to celebrate.

But this sudden cornucopia of choices for domain naming could lead to a free for all if it is not regulated. It would be a shame to see a business having to buy every single possible suffix, simply so that others could not use it.

As in trademark law, businesses that have trademarks on a name with a "historical claim" to a name have priority (Worthen uses the example of Amazon, which would be open, at first, to the bookseller as well as to people associated with the rainforest), but having priority does not mean having exclusivity. Who, exactly, gets to use the ".shoe" or ".apple" or even ".cell"?

One thing is for sure: naming and branding on the Internet just got a whole lot more interesting.

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Naked Cowboy Protects His Brand Naming

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nakedcowboy.pngMars Inc. has good news and bad news today regarding New York's Naked Cowboy and his suit against the candy maker.

The bad news is that the Naked Cowboy can go ahead with his suit against Mars Inc. for "using his likeness, persona, and image for commercial purposes without his written permission and by falsely suggesting that he endorses M&M candy."

Looking at pictures of the Naked Cowboy and his corresponding blue M&M side-by-side, I think it looks like there may be a problem.

nakedcowboy m&M.jpgThe Naked Cowboy wants $100 million in punitive damages, plus attorney's fees. He'll probably have to settle for just $4 million and live with the fact that 67% of People magazine readers think the Blue M&M is sexier than he is.

The good news for Mars is that quality candy is selling better than ever in the United States despite the speculation that we are in a recession, and Mars is responsible for a large share of that. At least one web site ranks their Snickers bar as the number one most popular candy bar.

snickers.pngRegardless, a $100 million law suit for trademark infringement is really nothing to snicker at, but the publicity alone is certainly worth more than $4 million for the company.

What's that saying? "Any publicity is good publicity."

Although they had better watch out for Nestlé, who is trying to take serious market share of the "premium-chocolate" sector that the Candy Snob blog says is typically "more resilient when consumer spending is in general slumps."

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275px-RAF_logo.svg.pngBritain’s Ministry of Defense is threatening to sue a UK retailer for using the Royal Air Force (RAF) logo, referred to as a roundel, on a set of boys’ linen. This easily recognizable symbol has been used at least once before by members of the early sixties Mod movement.

It is interesting to note that the term Mod does not come from the acronym for the Ministry of Defense (MoD), but instead is derived from the term Modernism, which reinstated itself as Modism.

The RAF logo was used in the sixties by The Who, who still use it, and decades later by bands like Oasis and The Jam.

Even Snoopy has used the symbol, as the RAF is well aware.

Snoopy_vs_The_Red_Baron_pc.pngEvery school kid knows that Snoopy flies an RAF Sopwith Camel in his imaginary duels with The Red Baron. In fact, you can fly it yourself in the Snoopy vs. the Red Baron video game.

My feeling is that the RAF is going to lose this fight because their symbol is already very much in the public domain. Rock bands and fashion houses use it, cartoon characters use it, as well as video games. It is also pretty safe to assume that the linen is designed around British guitar heroes and not war heroes because the linen features pictures of guitars.

Interestingly, it turns out that the RAF can only use the insignia on “non clothing items” and the symbol itself, as any bi-plane pilot from the World War I would know, was originally used by the Royal Flying Corps (army) and the Royal Naval Service.

afseal.pngThe RAF as we know it, only came into existence in 1918, the same month that the Red Baron was shot down.

As a matter of interest, the US Air Force seal is protected by law from uses not specified by the Air Force and is a registered trademark that requires a commercial license agreement if you want it for your own linen line.

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The PostNuke Software Foundation, a nonprofit, contacted us to develop a new global brand name.

Although the PostNuke name served its purpose, it had a few shortcomings. The name was confusing and did not meet the organization’s vision for the future of its software.

Taken on as a pro bono assignment, the new name had to be available as a “.com” domain name and had to be pronounceable for speakers of major world languages due to the organization’s global scope.

As you may be aware, it is no surprise to let you know that virtually all one, two, three, four, five, and six letter combinations have already been registered as a “.com” domain or are pure gibberish.

zikula.pngZikula, the new brand name and logo, was created from several Zulu words, one of the official languages of South Africa, where “Zila ukudla” means fast and “Lula” means easy, which are the main attributes of the software.

Plus, Zikula is perfectly balanced due to the multiple consonant-vowel combinations, which makes a word easier to pronounce.

Vanessa Haakenson, President of Zikula Software Foundation said, “We are thrilled with the outcome of the name and logo development process that Strategic Name Development partnered with us on to create the Zikula name. The name is fun, unusual, lighthearted, memorable, and consistent with the genre of Web 2.0 names.”

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Apple Tech Brand Naming: Mobile Me, You Complete Me

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I’m starting to believe the rumors that the Me.com domain name has been bought by Apple, who reportedly also bought Mobileme.com.

It seems as if the .Mac service is going to be rebranded as Mobile Me, leading Apple into a whole new world of connectivity and web dominance.

I dug into the trademark database and discovered that Apple has been working to gain a trademark for Mobile Me in the United States. Currently, they have an international mark, but the federal mark for the United States is still pending in various class codes.

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Make no mistake about it, Apple is all about mobility and the Mobile Me name would fit well with the new iPhone 2.0 that is coming out soon, as well as the various iPods and the Mac Air. There is no doubt that Apple is positioning itself as the brand name of choice for the tech on the go.

To this end, Mac has been buying up .Me domain names with a focus on verbs such as fly.me or drive.me. Some users are not really happy with the Mobile Me name, but I think it fits.
phone2.png
.Mac puts the entire focus of it’s online presence on the Mac rather than on the mobile wizardry that has rescued the company from extinction, but Mobile Me's appearance coincides well with the upcoming iPhone 2.0 announcement.

Apple will be seamlessly covering four areas: computing, digital audio, portable consumer electronics and a huge amount of web based activity. It brings the balkanized and expensive .Mac concept into Apple’s center stage.

If—and it is a very big if—Apple succeeds here, it will be bringing Internet connectivity into a whole new stratosphere, allowing people to use their new iPhones like desktop computers and to easily hop on and off the Web to publish and update web pages with pictures, music, design, you name it.

What really makes me curious, however, is exactly what this will do to the signature nomeclature “i” g that Apple started a decade ago with iPod.

The “i” is so tied up with the Apple brand that it is difficult to imagine “me” fitting into Apple's product naming strategy. Although, I do think that the two names will stand up well in the marketplace.

I would be happy to use an iPhone to connect to Mobile Me or use Mobile Me to track back to my iMac via my iPhone.

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