Research In Motion Needs a Four-Letter Word

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Why don't more companies take a gander at existing names and trademarks before making the leap and pushing off with new branding initiatives? The effort required to do your homework ahead of time is minuscule relative to the legal fees spent in trademark infringement suits.

The latest example is doomed BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (NAS: RIMM) and its freshly announced BBX unified operating system destined to run the BlackBerry smartphones and tablets of the future.

A small software shop out of New Mexico called Basis International had previously threatened to sue since it was granted the BBX trademark more than 15 years ago. That company's BBx is a handful of tools to aid developers create programs for multiple operating systems.

Basis gave RIM fair warning with a cease and desist letter threatening legal action, which RIM promptly ignored since it's of the opinion that both companies operate in "different lines of business" and the overlap wouldn't cause confusion among consumers.

RIM's fumble isn't nearly as comical as Netflix's widely derided Qwikster rebranding attempt that was justifiably aborted. A simple Web search would have likely turned up the Twitter account sporting a picture of an Elmo with a rather unwholesome habit and a penchant for typos and profanity.

Both of Apple's (NAS: AAPL) iPhone and iOS names had actually long been owned by Cisco Systems (NAS: CSCO) before Apple commandeered them. Apple knew the iPhone trademark belonged to Cisco, but it went ahead with its introduction in January 2007 and settled up with the networking giant a month later. Cupertino and Cisco came to a similar agreement over iOS in 2010. The key difference is that Apple's iBranding is crucial to its marketing strategy in order to maintain consistency. Besides, what Apple wants, Apple gets.

Now not only does Research In Motion need to fret over market share losses and service outages, but must also embark upon a trademark infringement case over a three-letter trademark. Couldn't the company have just used three different letters, or added a fourth letter to avoid this whole mess?

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Cisco Systems and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Netflix, Cisco Systems, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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