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RIM Backs Away From BBX Brouhaha

By Erika Morphy
Dec 8, 2011 8:50 AM PT

Research In Motion appears to have decided that the battle for the name "BBX" is not worth a lengthy court fight after a federal judge in New Mexico issued a temporary restraining order to block its use for the company's operating system in its next-generation BlackBerry phones and tablets.

RIM Backs Away From BBX Brouhaha

In October, shortly after RIM announced the new brand, Basis International filed a complaint against it, alleging trademark infringement. BBX is also the name of a Business Basic eXtended line of software developer tools offered by Basis, rendered as "BBx."

Basic International's BBx consists of tools that build applications for multiple Java-based platforms, including Linux, Microsoft Windows, iOS, Mac OS X and Android. The company trademarked the name in 1995.

Instead of pushing forward with its quest for the ownership of "BBX," RIM is calling its new operating system "BlackBerry 10."

RIM did not respond to our request to comment for this story.

All the Wrong Moves

This is another black eye for RIM, which has been dealing with wave after wave of setbacks in recent months, Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group told the E-Commerce Times.

"The problem is that it makes them look like they can't execute, " he said. "They clearly didn't vet the name properly. If they had just stuck with a name they already owned, this likely would have ended better."

It is a significant setback for RIM, said Paul Pierson, partner and design director at the Carbone Smolan Agency.

"This new operating system is a bet the company made, and losing the name furthers the impression that RIM is wandering adrift without a clear and focused road to the future," he told the E-Commerce Times.

Right now, it is essential for RIM to signal to consumers that its next-generation OS is something new, continued Pierson. "'BlackBerry' has come to represent an old-fashioned smartphone, and this impression is eroding their market share."

The 'Temporary' in 'Temporary Restraining Order'

RIM could conceivably continue to fight for the name at this stage in the legal battle, Scott Johnston, and intellectual property attorney with Merchant & Gould, told the E-Commerce Times.

Temporary restraining orders can be granted on very little notice in the right circumstances, but they are limited by law to a short period of time, he noted.

"RIM announced its new BBX operating system on October 18. Basis sent a cease and desist letter the next day. Having heard no response, they filed a complaint in United States District Court, District of New Mexico on October 24. They filed their motion for a TRO on November 30. The Court granted it on December 6 to stop use of the 'BBX' name at a developers conference on Dec. 7-8," Johnston said.

"One month is not typically enough time to fully investigate a trademark claim, take the necessary discovery -- including talking to the allegedly confused third parties, which were central to the court's reasoning -- or to brief and argue the merits of the motion," he explained.

The bottom line, Johnston emphasized, is that TROs can stay in place only for a short time.

Still, dragging out the fight would not be in RIM's best interest, he added. The name was not critical to the success of the product. "The decision to rebrand was really more of a strategic business, marketing and public relations decision than a legal one."

A Silver Lining?

RIM can still turn this setback around, said Rob Frankel, author of The Revenge of Brand X.

"A lot of times a rebranding effort like this doesn't go over well, because people know exactly what the company is doing. It is seen as fake. Here, everyone knows RIM is in trouble," he said, "and if makes progress it won't be deemed because of the rebrand, but because of the legitimate organic growth it will hopefully cultivate."

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