Kumo, Bing, or ???: Are secrets extinct?

bing_thumb_6ae80b04 Opinion In the next few weeks, we’re going to be hearing a lot about Microsoft’s new brand for search.  We pretty much know it won’t be called “Live Search” anymore, and we’re hearing again and again that it won’t be called Kumo, either.  It doesn’t take much digging to find some strong hints that “Bing”, one of Mary Jo Foley’s original triad of possible new names (along with Kumo and Hook) might be the name of choice in Redmond.

Bing.com is registered to Microsoft (since March 4, 2009.  Before that the domain was owned by a guy in Australia) and controlled by Microsoft nameservers.  Microsoft controls Bing.co.uk, Bing.de, and Bing.ca, too (although not Bing.jp or Bing.cn – we didn’t do an exhaustive check on all the possible country names).  Of course Kumo is registered, too.

Bing and Kumo share similar US Trademark applications as well.  Applications are live for both names, as “computer search engines”.  Interestingly, Microsoft also has a Bing trademark application relating to Maps, but not for Kumo.  Note that neither Bing nor Kumo have trademark approval, yet.  Kumo is farther along in the process, but Bing hasn’t even been assigned an examining attorney.

So is it as easy as calling up TESS online and looking up Microsoft trademark applications?  Can a company launch a product in this day and age without blowing its cover?  Or are the days of “one more thing”, when we were truly surprised by a well controlled unveiling, over?  Even Apple doesn’t seem to be able to keep a secret anymore,  and we don’t remember the last time an announcement at an Apple event wasn’t thoroughly played out on Techmeme for days or even weeks beforehand.

Since trademark law recognizes convention priority (meaning that a trademark filed in one country has priority rights when filing in another country), and since trademark applications aren’t quite as easy (or free) to access in countries like South Africa, there’s still hope that a new name could surface.  Pulling off a new domain might be trickier, but we’re no experts in what it would take, and we suppose it could be possible.

dumbo_thumb_01a9e33f Opinion Perhaps we’re holding out hope just because we just don’t like the name Bing very much.  A character in a John Irving story described hearing “a sound like someone trying to not make a sound”, and to us, Bing would be a name trying to be cool when no one could think of a cool name.  Now Kumo, it was kind of growing on us, and like the puppy Kumo that Joe Tartakoff at Paid Content has been so avidly tracking, it’s kinda cute.  Bing? Not so much.  Besides, it’s a clown name.  The ringmaster in Dumbo?  Voiced by Herman Bing.  We rest our case.

So whether it’s at All Things D in California next week, or SMX Advanced in Seattle, or somewhere in between, we’re hoping to be surprised and delighted by possibly the most important brand name unveiling in the history of Microsoft.  If not, who knows, maybe Bing will grow on us too.