Lesson For Companies Being Over-Aggressive In Trademark Protection: Look At Twitter

from the think-about-it... dept

We've definitely seen how companies and their lawyers are often over-aggressive in trying to "protect" their trademarks, often not realizing how much more damage it does to their brand. Take, for example, the story of Monster Cable who has created an army of people who will never do business with the company due to its incredibly aggressive nature when it comes to over protecting its trademarks. With Wikipedia now entering the fray with trademark bullying, it's interesting to see a lot of Wikipedia-hatred come out in our comments as well.

With all that happening, Rob Hyndman recently wondered if Twitter's much more "laissez-faire attitude towards its trademarks has helped it grow fast," noting that "there's just no question that people feel more warmth towards the brand because of its openness." And, it's true, there are a number of services built off of Twitter that the company could potentially go after if it were feeling legalistic. Twitpic? Stocktwits? But the company has (at least for now) taken an approach of letting those services move forward (often promoting them itself). And, as Rob notes, that's part of Twitter's success as a brand.

This is a key lesson that big companies and trademark lawyers really should pay attention to. As people always like to point out, trademark law requires you to "protect" your mark to keep it from being declared generic, but that does not (as many assume) mean that you absolutely have to sue or threaten anyone who makes use of your mark. Especially in cases where it's clearly not making the brand generic, but simply building off of the brand, it can be a much smarter move to let it live on. People (often lawyers) seem to think that just because you can block a business for using a trademark, that it's a good business decision to do so. But, seeing how much damage has been done to Monster's brand (and now Wikipedia's brand) for taking the legal stance, in addition to the positive way in which people view Twitter's brand, these examples should (hopefully) make some of those trademark protectionists think twice.
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Filed Under: aggressiveness, trademark
Companies: twitter, wikipedia

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  1. identicon
    Osno, 27 Apr 2009 @ 10:20am

    On Monster: I think the fact that they sell overpriced products that do nothing was raised by engadget a few years ago, mainly because they didn't like their corporate bullying.

    On Twitter: IMHO, twitter is about to become a generic for microblogging (much like coke is generic for cola beverages). I really don't understand how that's a bad thing.

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