US social network Pinterest has lost grip of its European trademark rights
Social networking giant Pinterest lost its trademark battle against Premium Interest, a London-based news aggregation start-up, following a ruling by the European Commission Office for Harmonisation of the Internal Market (OHIM). The implications of the EU trademark office’s decision is that Pinterest could be forced to change its name in Europe.
Premium Interest, founded by Alex Hearn, filed for registration of its European trade mark in January 2012 – two years after Pinterest.com launched. Although Pinterest was active at this time, it had yet to formally enter the European market or even register its name in the US.
Pinterest tried to overcome its own lack of registration by taking advantage of a provision in the trademark regulations which protects well known marks. It argued that the Premium Interest application should be refused as it took unfair advantage of Pinterest’s reputation to register a similar name. However, in the view of the registry, Pinterest failed to prove it was well-known enough in the continent at the time of the registration.
Hearn’s legal representative, Mishcon de Reya’s Adam Morallee, said Pinterest will now have to change its name if it fails to obtain a licence from Premium Interest to use the name Pinterest. In the meantime, Pinterest remains defiant and is set to appeal the ruling. To win the case, Pinterest will need to demonstrate it had rights in Europe before Premium Interest registered its trademark. The site’s prominence in the US will not be considered.
This case highlights the dangers of not acting quickly to protect your brand name in the global marketplace. Indeed, Hearn has also registered its Premium interest trademark in other markets, including Australia.
A solid reputation in one country may be insufficient in a different jurisdiction if you aren’t the first to file for a trademark there, irrespective of the size of your business. This is of particular relevance to digital online businesses.
Given Pinterest’s reputation as a robust defender of its branding – from its Pin-it button, to its curvy P logo, and its discouragement of partners using variations of the words “pin” or “pinterest” as puns in their names – this is a serious blow to the social network.
The moral, as with so many trademark disputes, is to take action early to protect the investment in the brand by registering trade marks in your key markets. Pinterest is now set to face an uphill battle which, apart from the legal fees it has already incurred, will likely involve extortionate settlement fees or the costly and damaging requirement to rebrand.
There is much speculation as to whether Google’s social network, Google Plus could be the next big thing in Social Media. Last week we discussed Google’s naming strategy Here we will explore what people are saying about Google Plus.
Google Plus launched with a trial service which only those invited to were able to join. This created an illusion of exclusivity about the site, with invitations to join being highly coveted. The site claims to have ‘temporarily exceeded’ capacity, having over 10 million users.
As a social network site to rival Facebook, it is one of Facebook’s strongest adversaries.
Google’s move into social media is a response to the challenge it faced as its position as the main method of accessing online information was compromised by Facebook and Twitter. The average U.S. Internet user spent 375 minutes on Facebook in May, and 231 on Google.
Better than other social networks?
As well as having similar features to other Social Networking sites such as Facebook, Google Plus has added a few extra unique features, such as what Google calls Hangouts, Circles and Sparks in its demo.
The Circles feature allows users to place their friends and contacts into specific circles, like you would do ‘in real life’. Rather than grouping all contacts together, Google allows you to separate them into categories, such as family, work friends or those you go out drinking with. So far Circles has been the most widely applauded feature of the service.
Vic Gundotra, the senior vice president for engineering at Google explained, ‘ Not all relationships are created equal’ adding that Google was trying to bring ‘the nuance and richness of real-life sharing to software’.
Recreating what happens in real life
Google Plus has carried over this desire to recreate what happens in real life to some of its other features.
Hangouts allow friends to meet-up via the web. Essentially it is a method to video chat as a group. To ‘hangout’, all you have to do is click on the Hangout button and invite members from a specific group to join you.
Sparks allows users to create areas of interest and then share them with friends via Google Plus. Also this feature allows users to find other areas of interest based on current ones. Each topic will get its own Spark page where there will be links to related photos, articles etc. This feature taps into what social networking is all about: people sharing information, videos, and interests with others.
So far Google refers to its Social Media site as a ‘project’, implying that what’s on show, might only be the start. Only time will tell whether Google Plus’ launch success will continue.
Will Google Plus be the next big Social Networking site?
Despite the immediate success of Google Plus, is it enough to attract 700 million users away from Facebook? Will Facebook be forgotten like MySpace has been?
Privacy has been a huge concern on Social Media sites. Facebook specifically has come under scrutiny over privacy concerns with apps such as Facebook Places.
When creating Google Plus, Google learned from its previous failures: ‘We learned a lot in Buzz, and one of the things we learned is that there’s a real market opportunity for a product that addresses people’s concerns around privacy and how their information is shared’. Google’s decision to create a Social Networking site that takes these concerns into account will give it an edge over Facebook.
Facebook’s privacy settings are notoriously complicated and confusing, leaving users unaware they are sharing information with more people than they intended. Additionally, many criticize Facebook’s misuse of personal information for advertising purposes.
Google hopes its Circle feature will help eliminate this problem. By allowing users to share their posts or photos with specific Circles, rather than with all their contacts, Google Plus solves one of the privacy problems that Facebook has encountered.
By placing friends into particular circles, posts or messages can either be made public, or directed at specific circles of friends. No longer will statuses, photos or wall posts reach the eyes of any and all friends or contacts. Facebook does have a similar feature, Lists, but this is a lot more effort to use and often goes unnoticed by Facebook users.
Given that Google Plus has addressed the one main complaint consistently leveled at Facebook, it’s positioned itself cleverly.
Is Google Plus too late?
However, one question many are asking, is whether Google Plus is too late to challenge Facebook with its 700 million active users in the US and UK.
Microsoft’s attempt to launch its own online search engine Bing proved incapable of competing with the well-established Google. Despite Google Plus having a number of good qualities, it too may be too late to compete.
Some point out that Google, with its one billion users, already has more numbers than Facebook. What Google has done is played this to its advantage by creating a notifications box at the top right of all its sites. This means anyone using any of Google’s services, will be enticed into looking through notifications and friends posts on Google Plus, therefore gradually spending more time on Google products than on Facebook.
Experts of social networking trends say Google Plus is going to disrupt Facebook’s so far unhindered success.
Google Plus is still in its trial stage, and has yet to go on general release. Google Plus has a few new interesting features that Facebook lacks, as well as sorting out some privacy issues that have been concerning certain Facebook users. The site definitely has potential to prove a threat to Facebook, but the main question is whether there is enough to drive the vast number of users away from their current social networking site Facebook.
It will be interesting to see what happens, but more competition is bound to improve the lot of users.