“Leadership is figuring out where the mob is going and shoving your way to the front.” - unknown
Thanks for taking the time to read this blog post about naming the company “Circles.” Please respond in the comments below the post or email me with your feedback and opinions.
It is a contrarian strategy
We won’t be able to protect the name. We will be easily confused with others that use circles to describe something similar. It also isn’t really descriptive of peer group-based learning. We will have few defenses to protect others pressuring us to win top search ranking for “Circles.” We won’t be able to stop others from describing their peer groups as circles. In fact, we’d encourage them to do just that.
We are on a mission to reverse the flow in education from teacher-driven to learner driven. We want a world that learns in circles instead of rows. This will be a world of the liberated actively and more equally participating in the planet’s abundance, and enjoying themselves while at it. Such a workforce will keep up with change, and problems will be solved faster. If this happens, does it matter if our project ends us as the spark or the raging bonfire? Our stance needs to be cooperation and sharing. Let’s help our “competitors.” Besides, there are plenty of people in circles already - it really is an ancient idea. There’s some evidence that a totally open approach will spread the word about us more efficiently that any more traditional method of pushing our service.
We will try to establish the idea of a “circle” or circle-based learning as a category in workforce development and education. This means actively educating analysts, connectors, journalists and influencers. This big idea will give us a big aura. And we will have established our position as experts in something new and different. Customers like to consider three options: what they’ve always done, the most popular solution, and at least one idea that’s shiny, new and different. Let’s win our way into consideration based on “different” for a while.
Search is open
Online searches for “Circles” or “Circle” both bring up math stuff, with almost no companies in the top results. We should be able to gain a top five result. Of course, this also depends on people starting to search for “circles” when they want us. We have already made progress appearing on results for “guided peer groups.”
No one else can own it, either
The US Patent and Trademark Office denied our application for a trademark in five classes. (see table below). The reason was that there was too much confusion - they identified 32 conflicting registrations and 14 applications. In other words, it seems likely that no one could protect the name. It is possible that in time someone would decide to be aggressive and we’d have to expend tens of thousands of dollars to defend ourselves, but our lawyers feel confident that we’d win. We will have to be careful not to tread on any of these other brands in terms of look and feel. And I believe we stand a better chance in the IP game by staying entirely off the field of play.
“Circles” is a big, ambitious choice. It opens up fun visual language and metaphors. People like the name and circl.es is a fun domain. Given the proliferation of top level domains, I think .es is fine. There are as many negative as positive connotations to using .es.
There are some tactical decisions. Our lawyers think there’s a still shot at gaining a trademark, but it will cost $5-10k to try. We could also pursue a patent for the processes we are developing. At some point, if we create a stylized logo, we might also register a stylization (The lawyers did this for Cartier with “Love” jewelry.) We’ll also need an official company name - Circles, Inc. is taken. But for now, I’m asking for feedback on the idea of referring to ourselves as “Circles” and our basic product as a “circle.”
What do you think? Should we move forward with the name Circles? Share your feedback in the comments section below or email me.
Here’s a partial list of related groups using the term:
- Circles, Inc. who owns circles.com - a corporate concierge service
- Circle Internet Financial who owns circle.com - a bitcoin startup
- Lean-in Circles who runs leanincircles.org - 30,000+ peer groups of women, growing
- Google+ “Circles” is the organizing principle of Google's social media platform
- OpenAgile Learning Circle - openagile.com - a methodology for learning
- True North Circles - Peer groups organized by Bill George at discoveryourtruenorth.org
- Ben Franklin Circles - benfranklincircles.org- run by 92Y around citizenship
- Lean Startup Circles - leanstartupcircle.com - supports practitioners of the Lean method
- Jesuit Circles - came up at IESE (a Jesuit school)
- Quality Circles - used by Deming and the Japanese
- Learning Circle Educational Services - learning-circle.org - an LMS
- Circles advisor Philipp Schmidt uses learning circles at P2PU.org
- Online Learning Circles is a wiki supporting a group of academics working on very similar stuff
And here are the trademark classes we applied for. We could still push to win some of these.