Jasper.ai recently learned an important lesson: why to assume -makes an “ass” out of “u” and “me.” After receiving a cease-and-desist letter from Disney, the popular AI writing software found itself pivoting – again – to a new brand name. This company’s story is an excellent example of why trademarking your brand name is essential to ensure its longevity, authenticity, and overall reputation.
What is Jasper.ai?
A new wave of SAAS (software as a service) copywriting tools is flooding the marketplace, offering A.I. content generation and writing assistance using G.P.T. -3 technology or their proprietary generation algorithms that can produce near human writing quality and ad copy. One of the most advanced and easy-to-use A.I. copywriting tool options launched was Conversion.ai. Since then, it morphed into an improved A.I. copywriting software under Jarvis.ai in 2021 and was rebranded to Jasper.ai in January of 2022.
Many users began using Jarvis’s former name as a “pet name” for the platform. The pet name came from J.A.R.V.I.S., Tony Stark’s A.I. assistant in the Marvel movies. After due diligence with their lawyers, Jasper assumed that no one would confuse their real A.I. assistant Jarvis with the fictional character from the film.
At first, Marvel ignored the software because Jarvis.ai was a niche product, and they were a small, relatively unknown company. But then they got popular, and in 2021 Jasper amassed over 350,000 people who have begun using the A.I. writing assistant. This growing enthusiasm and community fandom raised concerns at Marvel. Eventually, their lawyers felt they needed to defend their trademark for Jarvis and sent a cease and desist letter for using “A.I. assistant” with “Jarvis.”
Being that it was Disney that they were up against, they knew that Disney would drain their bank account and distract them from progress even with a solid argument. So rather than spending all this time and money fighting Marvel to keep the name Jarvis, they decided to change their company’s name from Jarvis to Jasper.
Why Trademarking Your Brand is Important
Some small business owners assume that trademarking is just for global brands. But protecting your hard work and brand identity is just as crucial for small businesses as huge corporations. Brand logos are the most obvious and commonly trademarked items for small businesses. But you can also trademark words, symbols, packaging, and even sounds.
Trademark assessment is a case-by-case basis, so if you question whether part of your brand identity is trademark-worthy, a small business intellectual property attorney can answer your questions. Intellectual property laws exist so competitors cannot steal creative ideas, names, or symbols from other businesses. Trademarking is just good business – it’s easy and ensures that other companies aren’t piggybacking off your hard work and brand building.
How Could Trademarking Have Helped?
Until a trademark has been registered at the federal level, a competing business may claim it for its use. The trouble with an unregistered trademark is twofold. As a business owner, you risk having your original mark infringed upon by another company. There is no way to argue that the mark is yours because it hasn’t been registered.
Additionally, the trademark you created may already be in existence. The mark you made and believe is unique may already be registered or pending registration by a different company. You could be accidentally plagiarizing their mark and not realize it! The best way to nip both these problems in the bud is to register your trademark as soon as possible.
If Jasper’s lawyers had completed due diligence, they would have known that Marvel was the current holder of “Jarvis AI assistant.” They could have thought about names before Jarvis got popular. Or even changed up their brand’s naming strategy to keep Jarvis but drop AI. Many things could have been done before the brand’s popularity got as large as it has. Luckily, even with the current rebrand to Jasper, they’ve done a great job of maintaining their customer base. Although, many people are still calling them Jarvis.
Could this have been avoided?
Since they already knew the conflict, Jasper’s rebrand could have ultimately been avoided. However, it is a little more challenging because their fanbase created Jarvis for them. So rebranding must include an effective strategy to keep current users, gain new ones, and ensure no more lawsuits can be tossed their way. Many businesses are surprised by the complexities involved in a rebrand. To ensure the process runs smoothly without losing customers, have a strategy before you begin.
The most dramatic rebranding measure you can take is changing the name. But, such a drastic change can hurt you if you don’t have a proper reason for it. Even more importantly, a name change is useless if you don’t fix the underlying problems which caused you to consider the change in the first place. In Jasper’s case, check and trademark your brand name!
How to Avoid Violating a Trademark
Below are some ways to avoid violating a trademark:
- Thoroughly perform online searches and USPTO trademark searches to determine whether others use that mark, registered that mark, or applied for registration, for what goods or services are used, and in which channels of trade to compare potential similarities to your proposed use. A relatively small investment of time at the outset using readily available search engines and databases may help avoid issues and save money down the road.
- Work with experienced trademark lawyers to help understand potential risks in adopting the possible mark and options to minimize potential risks.
- If you decide to adopt a proposed trademark but then obtain a cease-and-desist demand or threat of a lawsuit, work with litigation counsel to understand litigation and potential damages risk.
- Changing a trademark often can be less expensive than the potential damages in litigation – always consider this a possible option.
- Maintain a strong record of your considerations and grounds in selecting your mark and have clarity on the decision as to why the third-party marks are distinguishable in the minds of consumers.
- The larger the revenues associated with your proposed or existing brand, the higher the danger that you will face significant damages liability.
Jasper’s C.E.O. has stayed extremely positive and explained in a press release that the transition to Jasper allows them to go full steam ahead on some of the projects they’ve been planning. As complex as rebranding is, it is also a highly effective method to ensure that your brand stays relevant and competitive. Jasper worked its rebrand quite well, considering the circumstances. They publicized the change, created new products and services to go along with that change, and were honest about it.
It’s ironic that Jasper.ai, founded to help businesses simplify their marketing and sales processes, had to rebrand itself after a challenging year in business. One of the most complex and valuable things you can do for your brand is to plan for the future by trademarking essential brand assets. Future planning may seem futile in your business, especially if your industry seems to move at lightning speed, changing every time you turn around. Yet, without practical, thoughtful, fact-based plans for the future of your brand, your brand could be doomed.
Whether you are looking for help creating your brand or need some guidance on trademarking, TC Creatives can be there for you! We offer consultations at no cost, so don’t hesitate to reach out to assist in these areas.