Back in early September I wrote about the importance of brand names and the effects that names can have on marketing and brand perception. Recently it was reported that RIM, the company behind the popular BlackBerry phones, is facing criticism for the name of their newest phone operating system. RIM announced that they would be calling the newest BlackBerry OS BBX. Unfortunately for RIM a company has already claimed that name, sort of. As reported by the NY Times a company in New Mexico called Basis International has a trademark on the name BBx and has decided that RIM’s newest OS bears too close of a resemblance to their product. Experts speculate that Basis International may want to gain share in the mobile app development market and that by going up against RIM for this blunder they might do just that.
The NY Times has likened this conflict to that between Apple and Cisco after Apple announced the iPhone in 2007. At the time Cisco had a series of internet based phones which bore the same name and they launched a trademark infringement lawsuit against Apple. It is understandable why brands want a name that it is unique and why they take this issue so seriously. Coming up with the perfect brand name is difficult and in many industries some of the more top-of-mind names have already been taken. Having a brand name that is close to that of one of your competitors can, however, be a strategy for gaining some of their market share. This is an especially effective strategy in an industry where consumers are not emotionally invested in the brand that they already use. This kind of mistaken brand identity is something that some companies rely on but it is not one to base your business on if you want to do more than leech off of the efforts of others.
In this case, RIM has stated that they do not believe that there will be consumer confusion because the products are different. RIM’s BBX is a mobile phone operating system while Basis International’s product BBx is a computer language that, according to the NY Times article “enables software developers to create a single application that will work on a variety of operating systems”. Also, the RIM OS has all letters in its name capitalized while Basis International’s language has a lower-case x. As of right now there is no way to tell how this case will proceed but it could be significant in the app development world.