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Think Different About Names

Someone asked about the dispute between Apple Corp and Apple Computers which reminds me of an aspect of names to mention.

While names may be shared provided two businesses are in non-overlapping industries, Apple was problematic from the outset. It was always an unwise choice.

Apparently Steve Jobs chose the name because it sounded fun and spirited, and would appear at the front of alphabetized computer company directories. Also, the name symbolised the biblical source of all knowledge.

As Beatles fans, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak would have been well aware of the existence of Apple Corp when they settled on ‘Apple’ as their name in 1976.

The launch of the Apple II in 1977 brought them to the attention of Apple Corp who were concerned about the possibility of consumer confusion. So, it wasn't long before Apple Computer were sued for trademark infringement.

The 1978 dispute settled in 1981 with Apple Computer paying $80,000 and agreeing to not put their name on equipment "specifically adapted for use in the recording or reproduction of music."

The convergence of technologies soon made that co-existence agreement problematic. Apple Computer introduced a variety of music-related computer technology, including MIDI hardware and software, which enabled computers to receive and manipulate signals from live instruments for music production.

The Beatles sued again, arguing that this technology violated their settlement agreement as Apple Computer was using the Apple name for musical equipment.

Then matters escalated further when Apple Computer introduced iTunes. Apple was now operating in the music category.

The Beatles' clash with Apple ran for almost 30 years. Throughout that time, Apple Computers had to pay increasingly greater sums to resolve the various disputes.

Eventually, Apple Computer bought the record label's trademark rights for a significant sum of money, giving Apple Corp a suitable licence to use the name.

Is it worth getting into expensive disputes over names when you're starting a business or rebranding? In my view, no, it's not.

A name is just a name into which a brand injects meaning. The Apple Computer business would have been equally successful with a different name.

As long as you like the sound of a word and can create a story around it to fit your business, many approaches to naming could work for you.

A name is only desirable if it's available and legally effective. If it's problematic, think again. Check out my YouTube video Tesco’s £1,000,000 Naming Mistake for more on this.

Work with a brand lawyer when you’re choosing a name because names are the most valuable intellectual property a business creates. They should be chosen with the legal dimension as an uppermost consideration.

Given that Steve Jobs was keen on Apple as a name, he could have considered foreign language translations of the word instead of just going ahead with Apple.

Pomme is French for Apple, while Manzana is the Spanish version of the word. Spanish is more widely spoken than English even, so might have been a good choice.

Personally, I like Manzana as a name. Doubtless Apple would have succeeded if it were called Manzana Computer instead.

The best time to change your mind about a name is before you finalise your decision.

I’d suggest selecting 3 or more names and not being attached to any one of them when you consult a lawyer for advice and assistance on your name.

So, I’ve created a specific naming product to support businesses that are selecting a new name. There are a couple of videos explaining essential need to know information about names. It’s important to do your due diligence in the right order. The price includes 3 trademark searches to assess your choices. It also includes a consultation with me. Check it out here.