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Etymology: Thanks a billion: Making names pay

Posted by: Jerome McDonnell and Ilan Beesen on April 17, 2013


Spearheading a Stronger Brand

Thanks a billion: Making names pay

Words are free. Well, they start out free, anyway. When developing a new name for a product, service, or business, it's easy to window-shop, imagining how your brand might look wearing this word or that. Then the search gets serious, and you spend time and creative effort to find ones that represent your business accurately. An investment in linguistic and validation research follows, and the ever-important trademark registration. At what point, exactly, does a word transform from a handful of letters into a valuable asset that's synonymous with the brand it represents?

It takes time and investment to turn a word into a widely recognized brand, but it can pay off handsomely. Forbes noted that names can come to comprise a major portion of a business's total valuation: "'Google,' 'Walmart' and 'Microsoft'—all trademarked names—represent a significant chunk of their owners' overall worth." This means, potentially, billions of dollars.

And the equity in a name goes beyond dollar signs. It has the power to inspire, to differentiate, to help your audiences understand that you're the right choice. It's a simple sound, a few syllables, yet it can have the power to move markets.

Then: Then Again: Now:

So how did the journey from "apple" to Apple™ happen? A word becomes a billion-dollar asset when iconic products are combined with concerted brand-building efforts. This special mixture yields value—a value that's captured in the name. As that value grows, so does the need to protect the name from misuse and outright piracy. Enter trademark legal.

Brands and trademarks are often considered synonymous. They're related, but far from the same. You can register a trademark and not have a valuable brand, but it's impossible to build a valuable brand without owning its trademark.

Trademarks are the quickest, most cost-effective way to ensure your name is exclusively yours. As every brand owner knows, differentiation is key. As the value of your brand and name grows, it's the power of the trademark that keeps would-be infringers at bay. For this reason, "the strength of its trademark defines the power of your brand."

Owning a trademark doesn't guarantee your name or the brand behind it will become a billion-dollar asset. But it does provide the legal foundation on which you can build a free word into a prized aspect of your brand's identity.

This week's guest authors are Jerome McDonnell, Global Trademark Director, and Ilan Beesen, Senior Consultant, Verbal Identity.

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