Trademarks and patents are strange beasts. Something you’ve been holding on to for years in one country might suddenly be declared not yours in another place and another time. That is somewhat the case that Microsoft is facing when judges at the General Court of the European Union declared that Redmond can’t apply for a trademark for Skype and its logo that will apply to the whole EU region. This is because, according to the judges, there is potential for confusion with the UK broadcasting company known simply as “Sky”.
This isn’t the first time Microsoft and Sky tussled. In early 2014, Microsoft decided to rename its SkyDrive cloud storage service to OneDrive to avoid a legal confrontation with the British network. But Sky’s contention with the Skype name goes way back 2005, before Microsoft even purchased the popular messaging service. The issue would have probably remained dead had Microsoft not challenged the ruling of the EU’s Office for Harmonisation of Internal Markets in an attempt to trademark Skype in the region.
Truth be told, Sky’s argument over SkyDrive probably holds more water than its complaint with Skype, but, of course, those who sit in robes see it differently. The Skype logo, they contend, worsens the situation by associating Skype with clouds and therefore could be confused for the Sky brand. Sky, the broadcasting company, might be unknown in the US or in parts of the world where Skype holds more sway, but in the EU, of which the UK is, of course, a member, that is grounds for rejecting a trademark application.
It doesn’t seem that Microsoft will be contesting the EU court’s ruling, but it believes that, unlike SkyDrive, no renaming will be required. The court only ruled that Microsoft can’t apply for a EU-wide trademark, not that Microsoft has to change the name. Given the history of the service, it’s unsurprising that Microsoft isn’t interested in rebranding at all.
That’s not to say that Sky won’t pursue further legal action now that it has been handed its laurel. It doesn’t say so in its statement about the court’s decision, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility. After all, it got Microsoft as well as Livescribe to change names in the past and it might think that third time’s a charm.