The broadcaster first issued a complaint to the EU’s trademark office in June 2011, insisting Microsoft’s use of the word “sky” infringed its copyright.
Microsoft released SkyDrive, formerly known as Windows Live Folders and Windows Live SkyDrive, in 2007. The service has since acquired in excess of 250 million users.
While BskyB ceased its own cloud storage service at the end of 2011, it said Microsoft’s product was misleading for users of its continuing digital services, such as Sky Broadband and Sky Go.
Microsoft argued it was difficult to mistake its own cloud-based services with BskyB’s satellite, mobile and online services. However, a UK High Court ruling last summer held Microsoft would need to rename its product.
In arriving at the decision, the judge noted that customers experiencing problems with Microsoft’s SkyDrive had often called BskyB’s helpline, mistakenly believing it was responsible for providing the service.
Microsoft initially threatened to appeal the decision, but later backed down after the companies reached a settlement permitting the US computer giant a “reasonable period of time to allow for an orderly transition to a new brand,” as reported by Computer Weekly.
The rebrand has now taken place, but for Microsoft this case is all too reminiscent of its earlier dispute with Gernany’s Metro AG, which pushed the company to rename its Windows 8 Metro interface shortly after establishing itself as a household name. Microsoft also risked losing the right to trademark Windows due its delay in trademarking the name. Clearly, the company needs to make some changes to its practices.
Trademarks are important assets which add significant value to a brand. The lesson to take away from this case is the importance of checking that you can use a name before you launch a new product. It is so much easier to find a new name at that stage if your preferred one is problematic.
Then once a name has been identified as available, secure trademark registration in your main market straight away. It is not necessarily commercial at that stage to register in all other countries worldwide. However, if the product is successful, it’s important to have a strategy in place for registering in other markets over time to sustain the value of your brand identity. This is all too apparent following the recent European Trademark Office’s ruling that Pinterest doesn’t own rights to its name.