The launch of Facebook, Inc’s new name META left many scratching their heads but, the change has been clarified by Mark Zuckerberg as signifying the business’ focus on building the metaverse. Social media users have nothing to fear however, as the company’s namesake social media service, will continue to be called FACEBOOK.

Why might an established brand commit to a radical change?

Choosing a new brand is never an easy task, particularly for global brands such as FACEBOOK. But it can be an important step in focusing customers and the business itself on a new direction, to reflect new management vision or to distance itself from historic or outdated brand messaging. However, the legal practicalities are often overlooked in the excitement of a new name. Key things to consider are:

What do you mean? Literally!

In the selection process it is incredibly important that a new brand is researched thoroughly and this includes the meaning of the word in different languages in which your consumers may speak. FACEBOOK have already faced some ridicule by Hebrew speakers (the word META sounds like the Hebrew word for "dead") but they aren’t alone. KFC, MAZDA and PERSIL are just some global brands that have made a  faux pas on the translation of their brands in different languages.Brand owners should also think about protecting the transliteration of their brands to keep control of messaging in all alphabets – a great transliteration of your brand combines the phonetic similarity of your brand name with a positive local meaning that can echo your brand message. Therefore, it is just as important to file trade mark applications for any transliterations as well as the Latin version to ensure you can assert proprietary rights in all versions of your brand.

Search, search, search and then search a little more

Clearance searching is supremely important to your new brand -  you do not want to go through the time and expense of creating and publicly launching your visionary new brand only to find that, not only are you prohibited from using it, you also face complaints of trade mark infringement. Clearance searching all proposed names until you reach one that attracts an acceptable level of risk (and that risk level will differ from brand to brand) saves time, money and embarrassment in the long run.

Are you truly over?

When a business re-brands and the dust has settled on the new brand, what happens when a third party starts using a name that’s eerily similar to your old brand? Are you even bothered? Perhaps, depending on what that third party is doing. Can you do anything about it? Potentially, but it depends on where that third party is using, whether you have any valid trade mark rights (registered or unregistered) and whether you can substantiate those rights. Ultimately though, the facts will determine the cost benefit of whether you take action or not but, excellent evidence and record management will go a long way in helping you protect your legacy brand.

Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions on re-branding or any brand protection questions in general. 


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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