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How Microsoft blundered with the SkyDrive brand

Gregg Keizer | Aug. 5, 2013
Unbelievable that Microsoft did not see this coming, says expert, citing past Metro fiasco.

Priest didn't agree. "I think it would be difficult for Microsoft to pay a fee and receive an ongoing license," he said. "Because you're not just licensing the mark, but also the good will of that name."

In other words, Priest believed it very unlikely that Sky would put its brand at risk — especially since it's already taken the very expensive step of litigation and won the case in court — by agreeing to put its brand's reputation in Microsoft's hands.

Assuming Microsoft does pull the rebranding trigger, Farley suggested how the company might avoid another fiasco. "Microsoft must be more creative in the trademarks that they select," Farley said. "Their brands typically say what they are, and as long as they continue using those kinds of trademark they are going to have trouble."

Such trademarks, called "descriptive trademarks," rely on words which have a dictionary meaning — like "Sky" — that have become associated with a product simply because of long use. Descriptive trademarks are among the weakest on the trademark scale.

"Microsoft needs to come up with a unique word or term, then spend money to educate consumers," Farley added.

Moorhead put it in perspective. "Microsoft really blew some basic brand blocking and tackling," said Moorhead. "This was a major gaffe, but I don't think it will leave a long-term scar. I really think this won't be a tremendous loss. SkyDrive is not ingrained in the minds of people, like Office and Windows are. In a few years, no one will remember this."


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