A corporate naming story straight out of the movies

Paramount, MGM, Fox, Pixar – iconic studio industry names that invoke all the romance, adventure and thrills of the movies they produce.

How about oil industry – do any of these names spring to mind in association with that unglamorous business?

No, very likely not.

Paramount - the peak of arrogance.

But the disconnect has not deterred Paramount Resources, a Calgary, Alberta oil and gas company that seems to have an odd infatuation with Hollywood. Apart from its corporate name, Paramount has a subsidiary named Fox Drilling and has a significant investment in a Canadian energy company called MGM Energy Corp.

And just to prove the nomenclature strategy is really no coincidence, Paramount recently created a new subsidiary and has named it, quite brazenly, Pixar Petroleum Corp.

This latest piece of naming plagiarism by Paramount crosses the line from the curious to the incomprehensibly bizarre. According to the Wall Street Journal, Paramount’s obsession with Hollywood is a long-running mystery for people who follow the company.

The Journal reports:

Stock analyst Jim Byrne, who covers Paramount Resources for BMO Nesbitt Burns, says he was incredulous when he heard the oil company was naming a new subsidiary Pixar. “How do they get away with it?” Mr. Byrne recalls asking himself.

Intellectual-property lawyers say it isn’t clear that the oil company’s use of the Pixar name could be considered trademark infringement because it is in such a different business, selling such different products.

Disney owns Pixar trademarks, according to filings with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, for “entertainment services in the field of film and television, namely, the creation, production and distribution of films, videos, animation and computer-generated images.”

“In an infringement claim, the issue is whether…the relevant consuming public is likely to be confused,” said Gloria Phares, an attorney with Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler LLP who specializes in intellectual property. “But just because you have a mark in one area, like in animation, doesn’t mean you have a monopoly on a mark.”

Every naming consultant knows this and counts on it. It is getting harder to find good, original names that are not encumbered to some degree, as Blackberry-maker Research In Motion has discovered to its further embarrassment after naming its new operating system BBX.

A good name is a linguistic phenomenon that helps to create the very thing it identifies. Namers labor long and hard to find names that strategically suit the long-term business ambitions of a client company in all relevant USPTO classifications and celebrate when a name candidate appears to be reasonably free and clear.

Yet here is a public company merrily co-opting another company’s name and trading on its recognition in full knowledge of the fact. It is hard to comprehend what can be in the mind of the CEO in condoning this lazy, arrogant and most egregious practice.

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3 thoughts on “A corporate naming story straight out of the movies

  1. gassermaniacAlan Bennington

    A great “need to know about” post…depressing one one hand ,but informing on the other. How someone could get away with using Pixar is beyond me. I’m not a fan of Hollywood, but this seems egregious indeed. “incomprenisbly” in your copy…is this a new neologism or a portmanteau gone bad?

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