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Start-up swipes name from Cabletron unit

Cabletron's Spectrum software unit was ready to unveil its new corporate identity with a new, flashy name. However, some software start-up grabbed the name first.

Cabletron's Spectrum software unit was ready to announce its official split from its parent company and unveil its new corporate identity with a new, flashy name. However, some software start-up grabbed the name first.

Cabletron executives recently found out that Rapid Clip Neural Systems, a 15-employee start-up, filed for ownership of the name "Netuitive" first, beating out the networking firm by just a week.

Hoping to make a big splash at the Network+Interop industry trade show in Atlanta next week with its new strategy and name, Cabletron had spent the whole summer working on Spectrum's business and marketing plan. The unit even mailed baby rattles to media representatives, hoping to garner interest in the "birth" of their new company.

"The baby's late," said Darren Orzechowski, Spectrum's vice president of marketing.

Cabletron's troubles underscore the difficulty for technology companies to find new monikers these days with a barrage of Internet start-ups all looking for punchy names. Now Spectrum has to start over, and hopes to come up with a new name by year's end.

"It's extremely difficult on a daily basis, and it's getting more and more difficult," said David Placek, president of Lexicon, a naming consultant that helped Intel name its Xeon processor. "We calculate there are roughly 3,000 new technology trademark names filed a month in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and Japan. And remember, there's only 26 letters in the alphabet. We're not adding new letters to the alphabet just yet."

Software toolmaker Cygnus Solutions, for example, has spent many months looking for a new name, a process company executives say has gone slower than they had hoped.

Hewlett-Packard poured through 1,000 names for its test and measurement company before settling on Agilent--even though another company already owned the Agilent.com domain name.

Picking the right one
Choosing the right name is vital for a company's success, said Alton Wright, executive director of verbal branding and naming at Landor Associates. "It's the story you tell to your investors, your employees, partners, and clients. It tells your values, the mission of your company."

Wright said it takes from three weeks to a year to find a new name. But lately, Internet start-ups have pushed the process to a dizzying pace.

"Some Internet start-ups need names overnight. It's crazy, absolute madness with all the Internet IPOs out there," Wright said. "Investment bankers and venture capitalists say, 'Let's just get this thing up and running and just call it XYZ or whatever.'"

Spectrum's Orzechowski said executives agonized over 100 names before settling on Netuitive, which combines the words, "network" and "intuition." The company felt it was perfect to describe its Spectrum software, which lets businesses and telecommunications carriers monitor and manage a network.

"It was just descriptive to what Spectrum does: that Spectrum is an intuitive product and knowledgeable about what's happening on your network," he said.

Rapid City, which makes network performance monitoring software, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in mid-August for the rights to Netuitive--a week before Cabletron submitted their filing, Orzechowski said. Cabletron didn't know Rapid City beat them to the punch, as the patent and trademark office is three months behind on the filings, he said.

While Cabletron hired an outside consultant to help figure out a new name, Rapid City came up with "Netuitive" on its own, said Bernd Harzog, Netuitive Software's senior vice president of products.

"The head of our company thought of it, called me, and asked what I thought. I told him, it's so good you have to grab the domain name right now. He logged onto Network Solutions and grabbed Netuitive.com and then two weeks later we filed for the trademark," Harzog said.

Cabletron's Spectrum unit found out that Rapid City trademarked the name while pre-briefing an industry analyst late last week.

"We showed him the logo and name and his jaw dropped. He said, 'You won't believe this but another client is coming out with the same name at Interop,'" Orzechowski said.

Executives said they plan to move forward, nameless or not. At the upcoming trade show, Spectrum plans to demonstrate new Virtual Local Area Network (VLAN) software that not only runs on Cabletron's routers and switches, but also on technology from Cisco Systems, Lucent Technologies, Nortel Networks, and Extreme Networks.

"It doesn't make sense to scramble to get a name in time for N+I," Orzechowski said. "As Spectrum, we'll still have the same messaging, we're still spinning off from Cabletron. That doesn't change. Within a matter of months, we'll have a new name."

Cabletron is hoping the Spectrum unit will become the new darlings of Wall Street to help turn the company's fortunes around. The once high-flying networking firm has been trounced by the likes of Cisco Systems the past few years. Cabletron was slow to move to high-speed switching devices and by the time it bought the firms to round out its product family in 1998, it had lost a big chunk of its market share.

The Spectrum unit will first become a wholly owned subsidiary of Cabletron. And within a year, Cabletron will either issue a tracking stock to monitor the unit's performance, or spin the entire unit off.