The curious case of Kumo: more than just a “test name”?

george_thumb_3c8b7fe7 Bing We first heard the term last summer.  Mary Jo Foley posted on some possible new names for Live Search, including Kumo, which has led us on quite a little goose chase over the past months, one that doesn’t appear to be quite over yet.

Yesterday we posted on a “tweet” from the Live Search team:

In case you’re wondering, Kumo is only the test name for our forthcoming update. We think you’re going to like it.

..and got a couple of comments and saw quite a few more tweets and posts on how Kumo “was just a test name”.  But our digging last summer and fall showed that Microsoft had not only registered multiple Kumo domain names (kumo.com, kumo.it, kumo.co.uk, kumo.se), but had applied for a trademark on the name.

Now anyone with 8 bucks can register a domain name (although if Kumo was only going to be an internal code name, why bother?).  However the trademark is a little bit of a different story.  Without getting into all the details (although they’re laid out in the trademark application files), there are 3 active trademark applications for Kumo: Microsoft’s, a guy from Venezuela (who filed 2 days after Mary Jo’s story came out, and seems to have quite a history of domain squatting, but that’s a different story), and a digital video camera maker.

uspto_thumb_0544f8ac Bing Discounting the Venezuelan for the sake of the story, it seems as the USPTO came back to Microsoft in February, saying that it looked to them like the camera maker beat them by 6 days (Dec. 2 vs Dec. 8).  However Microsoft apparently had a filing in South Africa on June 18th of last year that they’re pulling out of their back pocket, and saying:

As to the potential citation of application Serial No. 77542283 filed August 8, 2008, Applicant notes that the effective date of the present application is its convention priority date of June 18, 2008. Thus, Applicant’s application is prior to the potential citation and Applicant’s application should be cited against Serial No. 77542283, not vice versa.

That happened on March 4th.  OK still, kind of fun in a geeky sort of way, but what really stood out was this little bit among some clarification requested by the trademark officer, specifically Section 1(b):

Applicant intends to rely solely on its intent to use basis under Section 1(b), while retaining its Section 44(d) priority date. (…)

Filing Basis: Section 1(b), Intent to Use: The applicant has a bona fide intention to use or use through the applicant’s related company or licensee the mark in commerce on or in connection with the identified goods and/or services as of the filing date of the application. (15 U.S.C. Section 1051(b)).

So in this filing, dated March 9, 2009, Microsoft has stated a “bona fide intention to use…the mark in commerce”.  Now (do we really even need to tell you this?) we’re not lawyers, but that sounds to us like a lot more than Kumo being a “test name”.

kumo_thumb_5bd0b76b Bing Does this prove that Kumo will be the new brand name for Search?  Of course not.  Did the trademark messiness get Microsoft to back off the Kumo name?  Who knows? (not us).  All it seems to show is that at one time, and as recently as 9 days ago, Kumo seems to have been a lot more than just a “test name”.  That, and reading trademark applications can be fun!  Who knew?