With apologies to the bard: ‘What’s in a name.org? That which.gov we call a rose.com by any other name.net would smell.edu as sweet.biz.’ Romeo® and Juliet©

Companies spend a lot of money on brands and protecting the asset created is important. Cybersquatting the domains of famous people was a new form of gold rush for a few years.

I used to wonder why pharmaceuticals got such strange brand names until last year when I saw first-hand  the problems of trying to find a name for a new treatment that not only wasn’t used but wasn’t ‘too close’ to another to cause potential confusion.

That Nokia threatened a London Tech start-up over use of the word ‘here’ seems to me to be taking things to a new level. I’m waiting for lawyers for the Beatles to claim prior art over the use of ‘here’ for ubiquitous mobile, as in ‘Here, there and everywhere’.

In 2013, a Missouri bar received a cease-and-desist notice from lawyers for Starbucks for calling a beer Frappicino, infringing the copyright of Starbucks. The response is to be applauded.

Recently, French courts refused to allow a girl to be named Nutella, a registered trademark.

With many more TLDs being opened up and with the rise of the internet of things/everything, I suspect that the current approach is going to be problematic.

Could Julian Roberts register julianroberts.biz or Lawrence Potter larrypotter.com, without the threat of legal intervention by owners of similar domains? In my own case I’ve pondered over registering Yappstore. Add to this confusion over acronyms such as IP and ITT which mean different things in different contexts and chaos could reign supreme.

I remember a college principal bemoaning an ITT (invitation to tender) for ITT (IT for teachers) in ITT (initial teacher training).

In a world where a company can globally own ‘here’, how do we prevent IoT land grabs over fridge, car, kettle and the like?

With billions of items connected to the internet, if they all have to create names that are not similar to something already owned globally by a major corporation we will end up expanding the new words list horrendously. I used to have a wonderful list of English words which where swearwords in other languages. The capacity for misunderstanding and confusion may open up new sources of humour. What would you do if your xzzyslpquv crashed?

Let’s hope we don’t get to a position where we share the bard’s observation: ‘let’s kill all the lawyers’.

About the author

Chris Yapp is a technology and policy futurologist. Chris has been in the IT industry since 1980. His roles have spanned Honeywell, ICL, HP, Microsoft and Capgemini. He is a Fellow of the BCS and a Fellow of the RSA.