James Governor has posted a nice piece about his company's seven-year-saga to acquire exclusive online use of Redmonk, his company's name. In the post, he refers to his Twitterville interview where he talks about how important company brand names are.
He also politely overlooks that in a recent freelance piece I did for BusinessWeek.com, I in inadvertently further mutilated his brand by referring to Tom Raftery, who runs the Greenmonk sustainability arm of the company as tweeting as @Greenmonk. He does not. He tweets as @TomRaftery. This gets still further muddled by the fact that James has also been using the @Monkchips handle on Twitter because Steve Ivy, now of Six Apart owned @Redmonk until turning it over to James.
Whew. Was all that trouble worth it? You bet it was. Every time someone did a Redmonk search the results caused confusion. James found himself using more "monk" derivatives than many medieval monasteries.
I feel the pain from personal experience. This blog is called "Global Neighbourhoods" with the British spelling because when I first started using it, a Florida entity, which existed simply to aggregate and resell URLs had taken the American "Neighborhoods" and wanted $25,000 for its rights. When I offered $10, they came back with a $5,000 offer. I then offered $1 and there the negotiations froze.
Earlier this year, GoDaddy.com told me that Global Neighborhoods name had been released and I immediately licensed it for the next several years. If you click on it you get here, but it seems to me that so much time has passed, so many people have the "u" version that to switch yet again could cause more confusion.
Sometimes, as I have also experienced, people buy URLs not for hopes of profit but for malicious reasons. In Twitterville, I also write about Mayo Clinic who first obtained an account for defensive reasons. On MySpace, the Mayo Clinic name was purchased by a British woman, with apparently little love for the esteemed Minnesota-based clinic. The icon there shows someone being snuffed in an electric chair.
My point is this, while branding issues are currently undergoing a good deal of rethinking, brand names and images are not. There are many ways to corrupt a company brand. In the case of Redmonk, two legitimate entities came up with the same name by coincidence and caused seven years of headaches. Mayo learned that there are folks on the Internet who would like to put an egg in the face of their brand.
My advice is simple. Protect your name in as many places and in as many ways as you can. I learned this the hard way and now I invest nearly $1,000 a year on protecting brands I use. Still there are ways that are overlooked. If you are a company, think through every possibility and invest in protecting yourself.
I wonder, if I register "BlueMonk," how much James will pay for it at some point in the future when he branches out again?