Corporate Eye

BlackBerry’s Trademark Search Lesson and the Fall of the BBX Brand Name

In October, Research in Motion announced a new operating system called BBX, which was touted as the launch that would save the BlackBerry brand. On December 6th, BlackBerry replaced the BBX name with BlackBerry 10.

The reason for the change was simple. In fact, the problem with the BBX brand name should have been discovered very early in the new branding initiative. A software company in Albuquerque, New Mexico named BBx already owns the trademark for that name.

I typed “BBX” into the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s online search tool and found the 15 matches (see the search results in the screenshot below), which includes at least 3 similar live marks in the tech-related industry, including BBx out of New Mexico. It took just 5 seconds to get that info. It’s amazing that BlackBerry invested so much time and undoubtedly, money into the BBX brand launch only to realize after making a public announcement that their use of the name would be contested.

According to The New York Times, BBx didn’t know that BlackBerry was planning to launch a BBX-named operating system until that fateful announcement was made by Research in Motion to an audience of developers at a San Fransisco, California conference in October.

On December 6th, Research in Motion was served a temporary restraining order from BBx and pulled the name. However, it’s unknown how or if Research in Motion will fight the restraining order or just let the name go. With the public switch to the BlackBerry 10 name, it’s probably safe to assume that the BBX name has been forgotten, but you never know.

The lesson to learn from this story is one that I’m actually surprised needs to be repeated, but I’ll say it again — always begin any brand naming effort with a trademark search. Research in Motion didn’t even need to rely on its lawyers to learn that the BBX name would likely be one that wouldn’t qualify for the company to trademark. Other companies working in similar markets already own the name.

Red flags warning Research in Motion of potential problems with the name down the road should have gone up immediately. Now, the company has to go back to the drawing board with the BlackBerry 10 rebranding initiative. That takes time and money, and given Research in Motion’s recent losses to its competitors in the smartphone market, that’s time and money that could surely be used more effectively in other ways.

Image: uspto.gov

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as MSNBC.com, BusinessWeek.com, TodayShow.com, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.
 
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