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

By Kip Kniskern | Posted January 30, 2014 11 comments

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
  • Windows Phone Bruker

    Who started with “Cloud Drive” One.com or Amazon.com, what about Cloud Drive from Hostway or even XO Cloud Drive? I think they should care about these, not OneDrive.

    • James

      I don’t think “Cloud Drive” is their official name of their service… it’s just a descriptive name for the cloud storage, similar to how it says ‘Web Hosting’.

      • Windows Phone Bruker

        When their apps have names like “One.com Cloud Drive” and the website says “Cloud Drive login” is does seem that way. But the main point is that how can OneDrive be more confusing than Cloud Drive, when that is used by many other people. And then again, how dumb do they think people are, I have such high hopes for humanity that I think people can tell the difference between Microsoft’s OneDrive and One.com’s Cloud Drive.

  • Todd L.

    I think I’ll trademark the word Two just in case…

    • Mario Albertico

      Haha

  • Longtime reader

    This article seems like you’re just trying to poke holes and stir the pot for the sake of getting page views to earn your day’s buck. You go from OneDrive being “naming done right” to this? Come on. It is so very hard to figure out just what in fact is LiveSide’s (and yours Kip) point of view with all the back and forth on stuff. Do you even have a point of view anymore or do you just want to be seen as relevant?
    Transmissions for scooters is very different than a service that provides cloud storage – so I doubt consumers will be confused. Two very different things. And does anyone even care what the brand name of their scooter’s transmission is when they are getting it fixed/replaced?
    Sigh.

    • James

      THANK YOU… glad I wasn’t the only one thinking LiveSide (particularly Kip) being so negative with ups and down lately. It didn’t use to be like this.

      • http://www.LiveSide.net Kip Kniskern – LiveSide.net

        First of all, thanks for reading! In both posts, I tried to frame my thoughts as questions (is it naming done right?… did they screw up again?). There were already questions about the naming and securing of rights, starting with the screwup that caused Microsoft to lose the SkyDrive name to begin with. While I not only agree, I took the time to point out that there are “likelihood of confusion” questions with KLD, but One.com has a valid issue, it seems, at least as valid (insert a big “not a lawyer” disclaimer here) as BSkyB did with the “Sky” brand (but with a lot less money in the war chests, most likely).
        I’ve kept LiveSide going because I like Microsoft, and use their products every day. Believe me, I would much rather be writing about how the world is embracing Microsoft and how it’s winning in the consumer space, instead of how it screwed up once again, but here we are with Windows Phone and Windows 8 and Surface and SkyDrive all being trounced by their competitors.
        That being said, there’s still a lot to be excited about, and I am. A new CEO, a young, energetic, and refreshing senior leadership team, a new in-house Lumia brand, some positive signs surrounding Windows Phone, the promise of new lines of Surface devices. There’s a lot to look forward to, but when Microsoft screws up, as it surely did in losing the SkyDrive brand, I can’t just look the other way.

        • Fred A.

          Thanks Mr. Kniskern for a well written explanation of your thoughts. I find myself thinking the same way sometimes. However, I would rather concentrate on what MS is doing well than anything else. Let the other crappy sites (cough, C|Net, cough) have the negative tones. Otherwise, your site will be run amuck with a bunch of haters and Rampant Fanboyism – I don’t think you want that, unless all you want is eyes to sell ads…
          Keep it positive, my man…

  • Fred A.

    From your won post Mr. Kniskern: 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.”

    “…necessary rights to OneDrive around the world.” I guess there is your answer!

  • James

    Microsoft was awarded the worldwide rights and trademark for “OneDrive”… those other smaller companies obviously didn’t trademark their names.

    A similar thing happened to me with my small business. I was forced to change my business name because it later infringed on an new medium-sized business’s name that they actually trademarked (and yes they opened AFTER me).

    So, Microsoft is the winner here. They wouldn’t be stupid enough to repeat the same mistake again. And the fact that they didn’t fight for SkyDrive means they wanted to change the name anyway, and while I did love SkyDrive, OneDrive makes sense and I love it now.