Monday, February 19, 2007

Future brand squatting

I recently took an online survey from a branding company asking my opinion about a series of potential brands for the branding company's client's new product. Ever the inquisitive sort, I checked the PTO website to see if any of these marks have been submitted for registration. A sampling of the few distinctive names in the list revealed that they were not submitted.

That's when my evil mind and overactive imagination kicked in. What if someone who took the survey proceeded to submit intent to use applications of the names found in the survey? That's probably not likely because of the expense involved. The survey I took had close to 30 potential brand names. But, they could get the domain names if available. Those are relatively cheap.

I recall that before I took the survey I had to agree to keeping the potential names confidential. Unfortunately, I didn't think about printing the confidentiality language and the system would not let me navigate backwards.

Suggestions to naming and branding companies that conduct online surveys:

  • Make sure your confidentiality agreements also require the survey takers to not use the potential brands as their own trademark or in domain names
  • Make sure your system captures the name and other identifying information of the individuals taking the survey
  • Retain the survey taker's electronic assent to the confidentiality agreement
  • Make sure competitors are not taking the survey
  • Consider grabbing the domain names, if available
  • Consider having your client apply for intent to use applications with the PTO on some of the potential brand names [HEY NOW, trademark attorneys have to eat too : )]

I'm sure there's more, but that's just what came to mind initially.

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