How Huddle ripped its name back from Google+ (exclusive)

andy mcloughlin

Google recently rebranded a number of the features on its social networking site, Google+. One of those features was Huddles, the site’s group messaging feature, that is now known as Messaging.

That change was apparently always in the works because Huddle, a collaboration startup based in the United Kingdom, held global trademarks to the name “Huddle.” It’s one of the rare cases where a smaller company has been able to fend off a supergiant with billions in revenue using trademarks.

“When it launched we pointed out to Google that we held global trademarks for the term Huddle,” Huddle co-founder Andy McLoughlin (pictured right) told VentureBeat. “They very quickly came back to us with a message that they would be renaming the service, although this was ‘an internal business decision’ and nothing to do with our trademark ownership.”

Trademarks and patents have picked up a bad reputation in recent months thanks to patent trolls that actively sue larger companies as a way to make money. Google chairman and former chief executive officer Eric Schmidt slammed regulators and patent trolls at Salesforce.com’s annual Dreamforce conference in San Francisco earlier this month, saying the patent wars would slow down the mobile and device revolution started by Apple’s iPhone.

In addition to changing Huddle’s name to Messenger, Google’s group messaging app now supports photo sharing. That should serve to make Google’s Messenger more competitive against other group messaging apps from Facebook and Kik. Facebook’s messaging application, by the way, is also named Messenger. Google and Facebook frequently spar and also compete for advertising revenue.

Matrix Partners led Huddle’s most recent $10.2 million funding round, with previous backers Eden Ventures and Charles McGregor participating in that round. Huddle has raised $15 million altogether and is part of a rising enterprise 2.0 movement that includes the likes of enterprise social network Yammer and cloud storage provider Box.net. Those companies are taking features and lessons learned from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and applying them to the enterprise.

Huddle said it became cash flow positive around May last year. It reports having tens of thousands of customers, including Procter & Gamble, Disney and Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer HTC.


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