Facebook recently announced that they were rebranding their corporate name to Meta. On one level this could look like Facebook are attempting to distance themselves from some of the negative press that has been associated with them recently. However, it also allows them to broaden their brand identity to encompass everything they are doing now and in the future. The platforms Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp will not be impacted by this rebranding.
The immediate reaction to the rebranding exercise, however, suggests that this may not be one of the most well thought-out rebrands in history for the reasons set out below.
1) Similar Earlier Marks
A number of people have pointed out the apparent similarity between the Meta logo and the WeChat logo (see below). With both brands offering similar services, it seems that WeChat might have a case in taking action against Meta, at least in China.
It has also been reported that the word mark META is in the process of being trademarked by another tech company, called Meta PCs, which sells their own brand of desktops, laptops, software, and accessories. The company has only been in business for just over a year and filed their trade mark application in August 2021. Co-founders of Meta PCs, Shutt and Darger, have apparently said that they won’t sell the name for less than $20 million if Mark Zuckerberg tries to get it from them. Shutt has since been posting parody tweets, such a photoshopped image of Mark Zuckerberg holding their product:
So, it seems that the Meta/Facebook rebrand could open up some potential IP disputes.
2) Translation Issues
It has also come to light that Meta is pronounced like the feminine form of the Hebrew word for ‘dead’ with the name being ridiculed online by Hebrew speakers. For example, the hashtag #FacebookDead appeared on Twitter. This highlights the importance of checking for negative connotations with new brands names in different languages.
3) Generic Terms
The change of name is aligned with a move to the “metaverse”, which appears to be the latest buzz word in the digital technology sector. With the speed that language changes these days and new words becoming common in the industry very quickly, Meta may be at risk of becoming a generic term and so could lose any distinctive value.
Whether Meta will encounter any IP issues from its rebrand remains to be seen but the exercise does at least highlight factors that every brand should consider when changing their name or introducing a new identity, i.e. due diligence to identify similar marks in the field, the need for multi-national organisations to consider the way their identity will be viewed in different languages and the risks with adopting terminology that is or may become commonplace in the industry.
Amelia Skelding 8 November 2021