The Australian arm of the Adani Group has announced a rebrand, now to be known as Bravus.
Best known for its involvement with Queensland’s controversial Carmichael coal mine, the company is adamant that it is not trying to shake off the negative image painted by the environmental warriors who emerged in force (both in public and in parliament) in opposition to the project. In making the announcement, Adani stated that it wanted a new name to reflect its courage and beliefs (which many might think ought to mean it should stick by “Adani”, rather than replacing it).
According to Adani’s CEO, the new name was chosen because it is Latin for “brave”. Cue an army of armchair Latin pundits pointing out there is no such word, and the pile-on kicking off from there. The closest possibility is “bravo” but that is a medieval term for a “sellsword” or “mercenary”, which is perhaps not the best messaging when trying to rebrand from rapacious resource company (as Adani was characterised by its critics) to socially responsible contributor to Australia’s economy (which it no doubt aspires to be).
As an expatriate British lawyer, I am reminded of the time the UK’s Royal Mail decided to go upmarket with a new name “Consignia”. The new name hinted at “consign” and “insignia”, they explained hopefully, and “describes the full scope of what the Post Office does in a way that the words ‘post’ and ‘office’ cannot”. Regrettably, most people remarked that it was a lot closer to the Spanish word for “left luggage” than it was evocative of something “safely delivered”.
Putting aside the claims and counterclaims about what Adani/Bravus might have intended, and what it has ended up with, this is a good opportunity to consider the law relating to the appropriation of words, whether made-up or actual.
For a trade mark to be legally effective it needs to be sufficiently distinct from anything already in use. From a practical point of view, it also needs to be memorable, have generally positive connotations, and have a suitable domain name available. Neologisms have therefore always made for strong brands, such as Kodak, Xerox, Exxon, and the like. More recently, with so many words and phrases already registered as domain names, there’s been a resurgence in made-up names and fanciful spellings, with Mondelēz, Qinietiq and indeed Google itself being good examples.
So, far from failing at Latin, perhaps Bravus are winning at brands? They’ve got their domain name, they’ve got their trade mark application, and they’ve got us all talking about their rebrand. Bravissimo!
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© Moulis Legal 2020