VanMoof's smooth Brand Protection
VanMoof, the Dutch e-bike manufacturer, was recently declared bankrupt. The Amsterdam-based company was founded in 2009 by two brothers. Initially, they only sold regular (non-electric) bikes, but a few years after its foundation, they decided to focus entirely on e-bikes. In a short time, VanMoof grew into a leading company operating internationally. Unfortunately, their success was only short-lived: the company started experiencing financial difficulties and problems arised with the delivery and repair of their e-bikes. Eventually, VanMoof had to close its stores, and was declared bankrupt shortly afterwards.
An annoying situation for VanMoof e-bike owners, as the use of the bikes depends on an app developed by VanMoof. That app is used to lock the bikes via a unique digital bike key that is stored on VanMoof's servers. Once those servers go offline, it will no longer be possible to unlock VanMoof bikes....
Cowboys to the rescue
Remarkably, however, Cowboy, a Belgian competitor of VanMoof, has developed a free app that still allows VanMoof customers to optimally use their bikes. Through their app 'Bikey', it is possible to export their digital bike key and adjust the bike's settings. Cowboy states that they simply want to ensure that every bike can still be used, although it is obviously also an interesting move from a commercial point of view.
Future-proof brand protection
That news spurred us to check VanMoof's legal trademark protection. The evolution from regular to e-bikes, or the evolution of VanMoof into an e-brand, is often accompanied by trademark law traps. After all, it is incredibly important to know that it is not possible to expand a trademark registration afterwards. So, when you register your trademark, you should not only take into account all the activities you practise today, but also all the future activities. You need to think ahead, because otherwise it may happen that your previous trademark registration does not offer sufficient protection for your new activities.
In that case, you would have to file an additional trademark application for additional goods or services (whether or not in a different class) to protect the new activities as well. A new trademark application also means a new filing date, and it is precisely that date that matters in determining who has priority in a trademark conflict.
VanMoof's strong tactics
In this case, VanMoof opted for a very broadly protection for their Trademark in 2009, namely for the very general term "means of transport and parts for means of transport". This includes not only conventional and e-bikes, but also cars, motorbikes, trains, boats, and spacecraft. Taking into account VanMoof's expansion to e-bikes a few years after its foundation, choosing for such a broad scope of protection proved to be a good tactic.
On the other hand, though, the larger the scoop of your trademark registration, the more chances to get reactions. For example, if there was a train manufacturer with a similar brand name, they could, in principle, have opposed VanMoof's trademark application, even though in practice the two parties would not work against each other. It is therefore important to always carry out the necessary legal research to investigate the availability of your brand name for all the goods and services for which you seek protection.
Preparing brands to conquer the world
In summary, you should always think ahead when filing your trademark application so you are also protected for future goods or services.
A trademark specialist will ensure an accurate scope op protection by legal availability searches. This way, Remarkable Europe has helped various brands in the e-transport sector, such as Taito Mobility, Bizbike, Veloci, and many others.