The Danger of Technology Code Names
August 3, 2012 ‐ 0 comments

We’ve just seen that Microsoft will be dropping the Metro name for its new UI in order to avoid a trademark dispute with one of its retail partners. Technology companies take note: if you’re not going to think as hard about code names as you do about brand names, be ready to nip them in the bud.aton-mebel

 

Trademark issues are only one reason we admonish technology firms to be more careful about code names. Some of our best friends are engineers, but they’re a special breed, and the types of names they like for their pet projects aren’t necessarily going to introduce a product effectively  to the marketplace.

Among the less consumer-friendly examples of technology code names:

Luckily these names didn’t stick. But some do. With the success of OSX (version 10.0 was code named Cheetah; 10.1 was Puma), Apple started marketing each version’s code name externally:  Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion to date.

The names do inject some personality into what’s usually a pretty bloodless category, and maybe they’ve even helped Apple move some product, but certainly they could have created likable names that would have been less likely to spur a trademark lawsuit from a major retailer. On the other hand, after its 28 years of legal wrangling with Apple Corps, the folks at Apple Computer must have been pretty used to dealing with trademark issues.

Our point is this: by all means, let your engineers and product managers codename their products. But develop a protocol to screen those names for external suitability – communicative as well as legal. If a code name doesn’t pass, drop it, or create a new name if your corporate name isn’t quite right for that specific product. It’s not as much fun for the team as seeing their pet project become a household name. But it’s a lot more fun than a $1.6 billion lawsuit.

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