Trademarks are hard to establish. Name changes – even small ones – have big implications.
Tesla announced that it is changing its name from Tesla Motors to Tesla.
Now 13 years later, Tesla feels handcuffed by “motors.” Tesla is more than cars.
If your mark is a combination of a fairly uncommon term like Tesla, plus a common word like motors, people will shorten your name. If it is important to you to be always known by both names, you need to work like heck to consistently market yourself that way.
Tesla is hardly the first to drive down this road. Remember when Apple was Apple Computer? Did dropping “Computer” help it flourish? Apple’s decision seemed easy, since “computer” did not bring much to the dance.
Starbucks was once Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. Nintendo was Nintendo Playing Card Company. These changes were ultra-long term evolutions.
This type of name change is never without risk. Dropping any part of your name may not be a winning proposition. Being chained to a name which suggests a more limited product offering does create issues. With Tesla, for the reasons already discussed, there may not be a big risk. But if you are not Tesla, think long and hard, and then long again, about transferring your brand’s goodwill to another product. The value of keeping your goodwill may far outweigh the “comfort level” of being sure your name does not become misdescriptive of what you do.
Then there is the practical cost. Federal trademark registrations and other governmental filings all have to be changed.
Sometimes your product or service offerings will evolve or even pivot entirely to take away some or much of the appeal of the original name. But those rights may be your most valuable asset. But any change in your mark is creating a weak point that some potential competitor can try to exploit. Trademark rights are beneficiaries of progressive care and feeding. You compromise your rights by veering, even a little bit, into another lane.