From Sci Fi to SyFy… What’s in a name?

Earlier this month the Sci Fi Channel became SyFy. Why? Because the channel wants to change its image. It wants to rebuild its brand and become known for offering fantastic, imaginative television– instead of science fiction shows. Hence the new tag line, “Imagine Greater.”

The channel president, Dave Howe, told the New York Times, “If you ask people their default perceptions of Sci Fi, they list space, aliens and the future. That didn’t capture the full landscape of fantasy entertainment: the paranormal, the supernatural, action and adventure, superheroes.”

The process of reinventing itself wasn’t easy for the network. It had invested years into the Sci Fi logo trademark. And so, when it began considering new names for the channel, it had to consider whether the new name would be registrable as a federal trademark.

Here’s how the channel president, Dave Howe, described the process to TV Guide Magazine: “We literally explored every single name out there. It’s a very difficult exercise because these days, to name something and get the URL and trademark it, nine times out of 10 you have to invent a word or misspell something. That’s how we got to Syfy.”

A basic rule of federal trademark status eligibility is that the mark to be registered must identify and distinguish the source of the goods/services from those offered by others. A made up word like SyFy is not likely to be confused with the name of any other television network, channel or program. Rather, it is likely to be considered unique and easily recognized by consumers. That makes SyFy a good choice by the channel.

Die hard fans who dislike change might not like the new name or new image, but I definitely appreciate the channel’s desire to improve its brand and protect its intellectual property.

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