Case Study on E-Reputation: Pinterest in Europe

Most entrepreneurs know that registering a brand’s name is not something you do off the hook.

First, you think about your brand’s name in order to find the perfect one, the one that will be easily recognizable, remembered and will be meaningful to your target audience. Then, you hurry to register it to maker sure nobody else will use it. That’s for the basics.

Unfortunately, new entrepreneurs have ideas but the lack the basics. The kind of problem Pinterest is now experiencing in EuropeBut this type of case highlights new habits.

Building a brand is not enough

Launched in 2010, Pinterest recorded the highest growth for a social network at the beginning of 2012. Being one of the most famous networks today, Pinterest is used as a marketing tool by numerous brands as well as bloggers searching for visibility. Often appearing as a needful pivot in social strategy, it developed a worldwide notoriety even though it remains a young network.

Lately, however, Pinterest has been challenged about its own name in Europe as another company, Premium Interest, has registered the name early in 2012. Premium Interest, a social news aggregation startup, has been granted the legitimity to use the name but Pinterest intends to appeal the court’s decision.

Can your online reputation be sufficient to protect your name?

The interesting fact about this case is the strongest argument given by the network’s spokesman: Pinterest’s notoriety should be enough to secure the brand’s name use. Hence, the e-reputation should be seen as some kind of official brand protection. The kind you don’t pay for but build on through an efficient marketing.

Of course, Premium Interest has the same argument having been founded in 2009 (prior to Pinterest) and having used – though not publicly – the word “pinterest” for the first time in 2009-2010. Premium Interest might as well deserve the right to claim the exclusive use of the name. A right the European Court granted the company.

The power of e-reputation

The question of the power e-reputation is a natural step forward.

Nowadays, brands defend their interests, build their reputation, address their customers, create a global image and universe meant to make them recognizable by each and every one. All of this online. And, as Clay Shirky has illustrated this idea in a TEDx talk, online pressure can change things.

Considering that Pinterest is known worldwide and has built a close bond with its customers, is it still possible for another company to claim the name and get away with it?

The EU Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market seems to think it is not enough. However, what is considered as “mere references” by the OHIM might as well cost a lot in terms of image to a company challenging a such a successful network.

It is then legitimate to wonder if the power of e-reputation has increased enough over the last few years to compete with the local laws. Will Premium Interest ever really own the name “pinterest” if Pinterest loses in appeal?

Audrey Rochas is a digital strategy consultant. Tweet her at @TrendSetting.