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What happens when your name becomes damaged by outside forces?

On Behalf of | Jun 19, 2023 | Trademark Law

Sometimes trademarked brand names aren’t harmed by other businesses misappropriating the name. They’re destroyed by events beyond a business’s control.

Readers who remember the 1970s and earlier likely recall a popular “diet candy” known as Ayds. It had been around for decades when the AIDS crisis erupted in the 1980s. The company eventually tried to rebrand the product as Diet Ayds, which really didn’t help much. Sales plummeted, and it disappeared from shelves.

A number of companies of all sizes and types once used the name Isis in their branding. Isis was an Egyptian goddess. Then came the terrorist organization ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). That caused numerous businesses to face threats and worse from those who assumed they were somehow affiliated with the group. The name itself grew to have such a negative association that these companies had to rebrand themselves while still keeping their customer base or go out of business.

Rebranding while keeping your customers is a challenge

These are just two examples of businesses that needed to go through the long and expensive task of rebranding when faced with their name becoming better known as a fatal disease, a despised group or something else that either drove customers away or put their business and employees in danger. 

On top of that, you can’t very well sue over an acronym that everyone is using for a disease or a terrorist organization. That’s why some marketing experts recommend choosing a name that’s too long to become an acronym (at least six letters).

Can you minimize the damage?

Keeping an eye on what’s going on in the world and popular culture can help you discover a potential problem and act quickly, if you determine it’s necessary, to either rebrand or double down on your own identity. If you do rebrand, you face the issue of not changing the name enough (as with Diet Ayds) or changing it so much that customers no longer associate it with you.

We’ve seen some classic products change their branding in recent years because their names had grown to be viewed as racist. This requires money for a large ad campaign that not everyone has.

If you’re changing your brand name, it’s crucial to ensure that you aren’t infringing on anyone else’s trademark. Having experienced legal guidance is crucial to avoiding unnecessary and costly legal issues.