The North American branches of the international network of HUB coworking spaces are facing a trademark lawsuit. Apparently, the HUB coworking brand, which was established in London in 2005, was never properly trademarked when it expanded into North America. Now, another company in the sector that uses a similar name is enforcing the law. Enter corporate counsels.
Typically, trademark disputes progress as follows: cease-and-desist letter, talks of settlement, civil action if no settlement is reached. Whether there is a settlement or there is litigation, costs can be high—particularly when one party has over 30 coworking spaces across five continents, with some 50 more spaces in the making.
HUB Raleigh, which was on track to becoming an official member of the international HUB network, has decided to not participate in the unexpected legal mess and fees. Instead, they’re rebranding, as are at least a couple of other venues. And I have enjoyed watching (literally, watching— I’ll get to that later) HUB Raleigh’s rebranding campaign unfold.
This is what HUB Raleigh did not do: Try to keep the HUB legal dispute hush hush while scrambling to rebrand. Suddenly go dark and re-emerge with a forced nonchalant style propping up a new name. Make people wonder why they’re acting so weird. They did none of these things.
Instead, HUB Raleigh told the community what happened in a Fresh Prince of Bel Air parody video that features their members and launched a public rebranding campaign. Until June 25th, HUB Raleigh is accepting community submissions for a new name and logo. They’ll take the top three suggestions and put them to a vote.
So far, they’ve received around 80 name/logo suggestions and at least one submission even included a new design for the HUB Raleigh website. The Fresh Prince rebranding video was viewed 800 times within a week of going live. I’ve run across numerous tweets about it.
But what really makes HUB Raleigh’s response to this situation a success —while at the same time ironic— is that HUB Raleigh used the trademark dispute and rebranding campaign to show the startup community who they really are. They’re an agile startup themselves.
They’re not only rebranding, they’re creating a new coworking status. Typically, by opting out of becoming a member of the official HUB network, HUB Raleigh would lose connections to HUB communities throughout the world. Liz Tracy, Community Manager at HUB Raleigh, told me that while it was changing its name, HUB Raleigh did not want to lose these international coworking connections. To sidestep the trademark dispute while maintaining its global relationships, HUB Raleigh is going to be a HUB affiliate.
What does that mean? It means what they want it to mean because they’re inventing it. Liz told me that because the status has never before existed, all she can currently say is that HUB Raleigh is finding a way, post-rebrand, to stay connected to HUBs across the world. Earlier in the day, Liz had been on a Skype call with HUB Mexico City.
The rebranding campaign showcases HUB Raleigh’s culture and engages the startup community that they house support. Creation of new ‘affiliate’ status maintains their international connections. In my opinion, this whole situation is a lesson in successful startup adaptability.
Epictetus, the Greek philosopher who was likely an entrepreneur at heart, would be pleased. He said, “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.”