You can be better than BlackBerry

[Cache – #52]

Names have jobs to do. Which ones do them best and worst?

Given RIM’s tanking stock price, this may not seem like much to aim for. Yet their 2011 blunder on BlackBerry BBX, despite resources that are vast compared to most, reminds us that all it takes is common sense, not piles of cash, to distinguish ourselves from the pack.

As my mentor Ted Matthews likes to say, there is never time to do it right, but there is always time to do it over. RIM fell into this trap by naming their new BlackBerry operating system BBX, only to be sued by a company already using that name for a piece of software (RIM has since renamed the operating system BlackBerry 10). It was a conflict that could have been uncovered instantly with a Google search.

Great names have many important jobs to do. And the last job of the naming process is to ensure your shortlist contains monikers different from pre-existing names in your competitive space. It is frankly unlikely that any of your names are not in use somewhere else on the planet. Therefore it is usually a question of which ones are least likely to attract a legal challenge from those already using it.

RIM should have conducted simple Google searches to see if BBX was in use by a technology-related product or service. If it was not, but was for example the name of an unrelated product like a bicycle, there would be a sufficient level of confidence that RIM could safely use it. The next step would be to conduct a formal legal check either by a qualified lawyer (which costs a few thousand dollars), or in Canada by the less costly do-it-yourself method – submitting the name to the Canadian Intellectual Property Office. If your budget allows, the lawyer route is always recommended.

From the one or more names that (hopefully) survive, your final choice can be made. The final recommended step is begin the process of registering the name as a trademark. In the meantime, use the name absolutely as soon as possible – because date of first use is a critical factor in any trademark dispute that may ultimately arise.

The other big due diligence boo-boo of 2011 was Qwikster, the label that Netflix applied to their new DVD delivery service. Like RIM, Netflix failed to conduct straightforward checks – in the latter case, to so much as ensure the Twitter account was available.

Which one takes the cake for the worst brand naming blunder of 2011? Weigh in by voting or leaving a comment.

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