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Brand Paranoia – Is it going a little too far?

Brand names and trademarks have always been a sensitive area for the corporations. Given the amount of money and extensive efforts are put in marketing and advertising for the brand creation and recall. It is perfectly logical for the companies/corporations to be sensitive about the use and misuse of their brand names and trademark.

There have been multiple instances where corporations have engaged in a legal battle for the rightful use of the trade names and brands. Some instances have been justified, where the brand infringement actually harms the brand owning organization.

For example a case where the brand name was thoroughly being misused is when –

Wipro Safelite brand for CFL was being used by a Delhi based manufacturer of Bulbs.  The company went to the court for the appropriate action. The action of Wipro was suitably justified because the Brand infringement was happening in a related product area and could have actually misled the consumers or affected their perception of the brand.

However, the concern about the Brand infringement has grown multi-folds over last few years. Corporations are actually acting paranoid and going out of the way into legal battles for brand infringement. I speak of the the two recent cases which I feel are more of a case of paranoia amidst the corporations for their brands than anything else.

Porsche Vs Crocs

Recently Porsche has filed charges of Brand Infringement against the Croc.  The charges are on the basis that Croc has introduced a new series of shoes called Cayman which are primarily rubber shoes priced at $30. The Porsche’s claim in the suit is that this infringes the brand of twin seat sports car priced above $50,000.

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Makemytrip.com Vs Tata

Tata filed a case against makemytrip.com for using the name “OkTataByebye.com” as a name for the new line of services.

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The Tata’s have already won the case against MakemyTrip.com as their plea that Tata in OkTataByeBye.com infringes their trade name Tata and is confusing and misleading to the consumers.

Now I have serious doubt about both of these claims - as why they needed to be made?

Does Porsche really believe that the rubber shoe from Crocs and its sports car is misuse of trademark infringement?

I don’t think the modern consumer is dumb not to identify the difference or disconnect between these two lines of product, does the company really think that the consumer perception might be aligned that since the Croc Cayman shoes were not so comfortable, the Porsche Cayman would not be a good product or a consumer driving his super fast sports car Porsche Cayman would let him believe, since the car is so fast so he would be able to run like Usain Bolt.

Similarly, for the Tata’s the phrase “Ok Tata Bye Bye” is such a common place in India, you could find something on the same lines written on every second truck, rickshaw, tempo, tractor which are far more related to the Tata’s line of Business than the travel related site Makemytrip.com.

But somehow this was a paranoia that their brand might be exploited that made the turn of events becoming ugly and heading towards the legal route. I feel both the brands are as distinct as Tata Indica car with the CavinKare’s Indica Hair Oil.

As a matter of fact “OkTataByeBye” was an innovative name and a catchy one for a website and had nothing to do with Tata Sons. No matter how much Tata’s would like to fancy themselves, in Hindi speaking India Tata still stands for Goodbyes instead of the surname of the corporate czars of the country.

I agree that the Brands are one of the greatest assets of any corporations but the way the paranoia is hitting the companies and industries, this seems to be a tough road ahead for the entire corporate world and the poor consumer would be assumed to foolish, dumb and incapable of making distinction between the entirely different line of products.

I am so grateful of companies like Amul who believe in their product, brands and consumers that they are not worried about that the customer might go out and buy an Amul Underwear when actually he wanted to buy Amul Butter.

[This guest post is written by Prateek Gupta - A Business Process Consultant in Supply Chain Management. You can read more about him here. ]


About Arun Prabhudesai

Arun Prabhudesai is founder / chief editor at trak.in. He jumped the Entrepreneurship bandwagon in early 2008 after a long 13 year stint in I.T Industry. You can follow him on twitter @trakin and Facebook. Arun’s Google+ Profile

7 comments

  1. @prats True!! On second thoughts, emotional does not go with professional!! The words of the great Gordon gecko:) Saw it thanks to u!!

  2. Well said Pratik! This trend of nonsense law suits will surely deter people from coining innovative names… :(

    • @Sumedh: True, and actually it makes all the more difficult for small companies or startups as they can be bullied this way.

  3. Interesting examples Prats!! I din know about the Crocs one.Yes, the brand thing does get a little far.But, I have a contrarian take. Brand is a crucial element and when companies spend millions of dollars and time in creating a brand a certain way , it is too risky to have the brand diluted even when the product segment is totally unrelated.More than the paranoia, i envision these cases as the companies trying to signal it to the world that their Brand is not to be played around with.If they allow , then there are chances that companies with a similar product line might one day try using the same brand name. Consider this from a real time advertising perspective. If someone searches for Caymen and lands up on the Crocs page, then thats a serious problem, aint it. hence, i think its imperative tht companies go tht extra mile to protect their brand entity:) but u are right in the case of makemytrip case, that is a clear case of brand paranoia cos the Tata term is too generic to be associated with a single entity. As for the Amul analogy i totally dig it!!

    • @Ankit: Repeating myself the point here is when a person search for Cayman and lands on the Croc’s Cayman page he is not going to be confused that the shoe is actually not a car or vice versa. Secondly if they are so steady about their brands I believe that they do their SEO right and have an appropriate description & summary with the site. And if the Croc Cayman lists first on the search and the Porsche Cayman on page 7 then Porsche needs to do its homework and the answer is in Online marketing not the law suits.

  4. Slowly brand name war started in India also. I read many reports and blog posts in the US , EU and Australia like this. Pl read the following link for a shocking interesting news

    • @DPI: Thats shocking indeed… and its actually taking it a step further towards being a paranoid. I am afraid windows might drop the color magenta from their color pallet for the compliance.

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