I stumbled across an article by Jennifer Leggio of ZDNet that illustrates the art of brand suicide in this day and age of the social web:
‘Branded community’ leads to trademark morass
Basically, Jennifer received a cease and desist letter from i-legions claiming that her use of the phrase "branded community" constitutes trademark infringement. Denise Howell of ZDNet commented on this issue and provided a good link regarding Trademarks.
Legalese aside, what makes this situation precious is the irony involved.
i-legions is "The only company whose Branded Communities® generate real revenue as they enhance user interaction with your brand".
The letter from i-legions was specifically in response to an article entitled "Enterprise communities: build or join?" which highlights Mzinga, a provider of online communities and social networks for businesses. One could say they help companies build "branded communities".
That means...Mzinga...is....a competitor. Aha, now I get it!
So rather than compete on the value of their solution, i-legions' recipe for social web success is to legally govern what people can and can't say. Do I have that right? Well, that makes perfect sense since i-legions, after all, is "The only company whose Branded Communities® generate real revenue...".
So, while i-legions positions themselves as social web leaders and brand experts, I hope their advice to their prospective customers regarding this issue is to "do as I say and not as I do".
Trademark infringement is an important issue to understand, and I am on record regarding the importance of protecting trademarks. See my What Do You Stand For? post regarding the Hibernate trademark.
This i-legions situation, however, is not about infringing on an established product name, company logo, etc. Instead it appears focused on someone's ill-informed desire to govern the "descriptive fair use of words in the English language" (i.e. not trademark infringement)...especially by [or in reference to] their competitors.