NEW YORK: In a world where exclusivity matters and packaging is of sacrosanct importance, what name you give your product, website or domain can actually determine how successful it is going to be and what kind of visibility and goodwill it is going to generate.
So when a new product gets into the market place, in whatever format anywhere in the world, the bottomline unquestionably is, that it must be one of its kind.
Yet today it has become increasingly difficult to find a name for a company or product, even something as ubiquitious as a new shade of lipstick, that has not been grabbed already.
“Finding names has become a headache,” said Bernard Fornas, president and chief executive of Cartier, and “once you come up with a name that is interesting, you will in all likelihood also discover, that it is already registered.”
“Legalities abound, creating a damper on the enthusiasm of any manufacturer or inventor”, said Joseph Gubernick, chief marketing officer for Estee Lauder, who has been with the company for more than 30 years and recalls the time when the naming process was not as complicated or tension filled.
According to industry analysts, things have changed because companies have become more global and so has the way they approach distribution of goods. Names have to be registered in a company's home country and secured in several others. The Internet, with its global reach, has complicated the process further.
Also, many products, particularly in the luxury and fashion segment, need a name that conveys a feeling or emotion and do that across cultures and languages. So “anything goes” may not hold much water any more.
For a global brand like Estee Lauder, as many as 40 new products are trademarked every year, something the company has been doing for the last 35 years. This does not include the hundreds of new products or colours that are the result of Lauder's line extensions or expansions.
On the Internet itself, the growth of trademarked domains —Web addresses or Websites, is exponential. Today, there are over 64 million domain names as compared to 45 milion in August 2005, according to Delphine Parlier, founder and partner of Quenisis, a Paris based company that integrates the creative process of choosing a name and undertakes tasks of legal, cultural and linguistic screening.
She also said that while naming is not a problem for a small company with local distribution, it can be a mammoth task for global brands.
Companies want a Web search to go directly to the proper name of their site. For years entrepreneurs have been registering dot.com names en masse’, hoping that one day some company will need a name which they will be willing to pay for.
In mid-January, Louis Vuitton ran into a similar legal snag in China, a country whose population of luxury consumers is on the rise while counterfeiting runs rampant. A Wuhan businessman, Wang Jun trademarked the phonetic translation of Louis Vuitton in Roman letters and Chinese characters and was prepared to offer trademarks to Vuitton for 120 million yuan (Rs66 crore).
Louis Vuitton said last month that it was not trying to buy the trademarks and that it would appeal a 2002 decision by the Chinese Patent Re-examination Board that upheld Jun's rights to make a handbag with various Vuitton motifs and logo.
Fees for an unregistered name can range from a few thousand dollars for a one-market venture to more than $70,000 (Rs31,50,000) for a global name ordot-com domain.
Additionally, legal fees for registration could set yo u back by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Who ever said, the naming game was an impulsive affair, obviously did not know the twists and turns that dominate today’s naming business.