Call It Circles

“Leadership is figuring out where the mob is going and shoving your way to the front.”
– unknown

Dear Advisors:

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.

Movement marketing

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.

Thought leadership

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.

It fits

“Circles” is a big, ambitious choice. It opens up fun visual language and metaphors. People like the name and 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 – a corporate concierge service
  • Circle Internet Financial who owns – a bitcoin startup
  • Lean-in Circles who runs – 30,000+ peer groups of women, growing
  • Google+ “Circles” is the organizing principle of Google’s social media platform
  • OpenAgile Learning Circle – – a methodology for learning
  • True North Circles – Peer groups organized by Bill George at
  • Ben Franklin Circles –– run by 92Y around citizenship
  • Lean Startup Circles – –  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 – –  an LMS
  • Circles advisor Philipp Schmidt uses learning circles at
  • 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.


circles trademarks

Photo Credit

Daniel Hoffman
Entrepreneur, Learner, Synthesizer, Designer, Connector, Ne'er-do-well

5 Responses to “Call It Circles

  • This post is conspicuous for not presenting a choice. Do you feel like you’ve done enough name brainstorming? If so, then yeah I’d say go with and move on.

    Not having the .com isn’t great, however, as you point out, search is more important than the domain name and you are likely to rank high there pretty quickly. So maybe it’s OK.

    I expect that over time you’ll take various circles-related domains such as, and use them together with or instead of

    But in the era of search, perhaps this question is as important as deciding what your 1-800 number should be.

    Domain name aside, the Circles name seems great.

  • Konstantinos Toubekis Toubekis
    6 months ago

    icircle, wecircle, uscircle – from what you describe you already made the step to: spirals

  • Sam Friend
    6 months ago

    Like the name circles don’t think it would make sense to go after Tm for generic term as lawyers are most likely to win. what about protection of circles app and owning the mobile space as that’s where it’s going to happen. I think worthwhile getting a view on trademark as this is free to do and a provisional is not that expensive if chances look good and you have 18months to refine idea and have the benefit of locking in the registration date now….. (happy to help with the patent lawyer as discussed)

  • With no chance of getting the .com, I might at least consider a few other options. Great post: At the end of the day, though, I think we’re entering a new era where obscure domains can be ok!

  • Bob Aron
    6 months ago

    I actually like “wecircle.” I thought about Brooklyn Circle, but it might be over used. The word for circle in other languages may sound interesting but hard to build an image. Then there is “Learning Circle Guild.”

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