OneDrive: Has Microsoft screwed up the branding, again? (UPDATED)

By Kip Kniskern | In News | Posted January 30, 2014

You know the story: Microsoft, at a time when they’re facing fierce competition from both Box and Dropbox, lost a European Union court battle with British Sky Broadcasting, known as BSkyB but promoting products under the “Sky” brand, rather than continue the battle (or buy off BSkyB), Microsoft announced back in July that they had agreed to change the SkyDrive name.

We didn’t hear much from Microsoft after that, until earlier this week, when the Redmond company announced that they had decided on a new name, “OneDrive”. Of course the first thing tech pundits did was a search on the fairly obvious and familiar name, and finding no trademarks registered to Microsoft, and a number of other similar and potentially troublesome names, took to Twitter and elsewhere wondering if Microsoft had indeed jumped out of the frying pan into the fire.

We asked for clarification, but were told that Microsoft didn’t “have any public-facing resources to share right now”. That didn’t stop the press from continuing to dig, of course, and Neowin is reporting that in fact, the owners of One.com, owners of a web hosting company with their own “Cloud Drive“, aren’t too happy with Microsoft right now:

One.com says that “OneDrive, from Microsoft, is a similar product – with a similar name, that will lead to confusion.”

(One.com CEO Thomas Medard) Frederiksen told Neowin: “It was a big surprise to me that Microsoft have decided to name their cloud service OneDrive. For me, it’s important to protect our brand company name.”

He added that he “would have expected that Microsoft would have done more thorough research, before releasing their new name. They are after all one of the big players in the market.”

And that’s not all. We were contacted earlier this week by old LiveSide friend Guillaume Belfiore (no relation to Joe, but Guillaume goes way back, and was a friend through the MSN Butterfly program even before LiveSide was launched). Guillaume is writing for Clubic.com, a French tech publication, and he too did a bit of digging and contacted KLD Industries, the makers of OneDrive (a transmission like part for scooters). Their CEO, Christian Okansky, replied to Guillaume’s questions via email:

Guillaume: Has Microsoft contacted you for an agreement? Do you perceive this rebranding as a threat to your own business?

Okansky (via iPhone and Spell Check):

Guillaume.    Thanks for your email.  To answer your question, we have not had any contact with Microsoft. In terms of effect on our business, as you may know we are a young company in Austin Texas, I stared the company in 2007 with the goal of making a big difference in our world.  In Early 2013 we finished testing and developing our turnkey drivetrain (motor, controller, battery) and trademarked it under the name OneDrive…after extensive and tireless effort we were able to create a brand identity for our young company’s first product “onedrive”…this was evidenced by if you were to google onedrive, you got all KLD, likewise #onedrive was all about KLD… Today it is all Microsoft.  So yessir has most definitely effected us…

(Here’s Guillaume’s post (in French) on Clubic.com, he was kind enough to provide us the original (in English) email thread with Okansky’s reply, above).

We’re still hopeful that this is all a misunderstanding, but without any guidance from Microsoft, these kinds of speculations are bound to be running rampant. There are also a number of issues with the CEOs’ remarks, including the fact that there’s little chance that a cloud service and a scooter transmission would pass the US Trademark Office’s “likelihood of confusion” test, which according to Wikipedia says:

A new trademark will infringe on an existing one if the new one is so similar to the original that consumers are likely to confuse the two marks, and mistakenly purchase from the wrong company.

Still, we can’t see any reason why Microsoft doesn’t just come out and state their claim to the OneDrive name, especially since they already screwed up once with SkyDrive. What do you think, is Microsoft in trouble once again?

UPDATED: Microsoft seems assured that they’re in the clear.  Here’s their official response to our latest inquiry regarding this post:

“During the rebranding process we worked to ensure that Microsoft obtained all the necessary rights to OneDrive around the world.”

Posted January 30th, 2014 at 10:17 am
Category: News
Tags: OneDrive, SkyDrive, branding