Microsoft has been having quite a time picking brand names that stand up to trademark suits. We all remember the issue over the term "Metro" for the new universal interface across Windows 8, Windows Phone and Xbox. Previously all of the interface concepts were referred to as Metro, until Metro AG, the world's 5th largest retailer, contacted them and demanded they pick a new name. unfortunately they have had no luck accomplishing that, having used the terms Modern UI and now simply Windows Store style.
This week, Microsoft has lost another brand name to not being legally prepared, this time one that matters: SkyDrive. For those who do not know, SkyDrive is a cloud storage solution from Microsoft that is heavily integrated into their current product offerings, with even closer integration in upcoming products. Windows 8.1, codenamed Blue, is set to have SkyDrive as its default storage location. Windows Phone automatically uploads photos to the service's Photos section. Xbox One will allow cloud storage of games and save data to SkyDrive as well.
All of that is almost correct, as Microsoft will now have to change the name of the service from SkyDrive. A trademark suit with BSkyB, or British Sky Broadcasting, was lost, with Microsoft having to let go of the brand which infringed on the 'Sky' mark. The mark in question is for a former cloud storage service, Sky Store & Share, which BSkyB shuttered in 2011, when they initially filed the trademark suit.
Luckily for Microsoft, BSkyB has allowed Microsoft a reasonable period of time to transition off of the mark. If Microsoft is unable to make a deal out of court for a licensing program for the name, which they have not mentioned being interested in, this loss will cost Microsoft dearly.
As Microsoft has been marketing SkyDrive as the center of a technological wheel that includes all of Microsoft's technologies, like Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, Internet Explorer, Outlook and Office, there will be a tremendous amount of branding changes to be done. All of these applications and platforms will need to have logos, marketing material and naming updated to reflect whatever the new name of the service is.
In addition, there will be a lot of development cost involved. All of these apps will have new API endpoints that will need to be developed and implemented. All existing SkyDrive shares will need to be rerouted to the new domain. Plus, there are non-Microsoft apps that rely on SkyDrive heavily that will also need to be rewritten at the cost of developers unrelated to Microsoft.
This last issue is the one that might cost Microsoft the most. At a time when Microsoft is trying to court new development on its platforms, costing those developers money because of a bad decision on Microsoft's part will not help in winning hearts and minds.
Luckily, SkyDrive as a brand name is still relatively unknown. Unless you use Windows 8 or Windows Phone 8, you might have never interacted with the brand at all. If this was going to happen, this would be the time to have it happen. Hopefully, whatever the new brand name is, it will not have the same over-reaching, bland descriptive branding that Microsoft has been known for.