Dev

99designs & a trademark ain’t one, or, the surprising relaunch of Pro Tools

Pro Tools, as many of you may know, is the industry-standard creative software suite for musicians.

It’s also the name of the latest product from 99designs, the crowdsourced spec work site for getting creative work done on the cheap.

Pro Tools is a digital audio platform for Mac and Windows made by Avid and first released in 1991, according to Wikipedia. It’s in just about every professional audio/video setup. Ad agencies often have in-house A/V specialists and Pro Tools experts whose only job is to edit audio using Pro Tools.

According to 99designs, Pro Tools is a digital software suite for ad agencies to find freelancers and work with clients. While it’s unlikely that there’s any overlap between the functions of the two products, we’re confused as to why 99designs would choose a name — and not a great name, at that — that was already so closely aligned with another company’s software.

And that’s the kind of confusion that leads to trademark lawsuits.

“We’re aware of that product and aren’t concerned as we don’t see any legal or other problematic issues arising there,” a 99designs rep wrote to VentureBeat this morning in an email.

However, the Avid reps we contacted might see some legal or other problematic issues arising there. They’re looking into the situation now and promised to get back to us shortly.

The 99design folks did not contact Avid prior to the launch; our contact said that after discussing the matter internally, the team decided to proceed with the launch and not pursue a trademark for the name.

99designs also would make the point that its software is for a different industry — ads, not music. However, given the number of Pro Tools editor positions at ad agencies, a fair argument could be made to the contrary.

A bit more about the 99designs version of Pro Tools: The company’s target audience of mid-sized to small web and marketing agencies are usually coming to 99designs to find freelance graphic design work. They are looking for fresh talent, but the site’s crowdsourced contest model means they get to see a lot of work from a lot of creatives for very little money before making their decision.

The new 99designs software suite includes invite-only contests to help agencies set a higher bar for crowdsourced submissions, presentation tools for working with clients, private and “blind” contests to keep IP on lock, and custom non-disclosure agreements to work better with careful clients and freelance designers.

All in all, it’s right in line with what 99designs already does. We just gotta ask: Couldn’t they have come up with a better name?

Totally objectively, “Pro Tools” is just a crap name for a product. It’s generic and vague. Heck, my face is a pro tool. The Internet is a pro tool. A jackhammer is a pro tool. The phrase “pro tool” in and of itself has absolutely no meaning — outside its now universally acknowledged meaning related to audio software.

And what about SEO? No search engine in the world is going to take a “Pro Tools” query and serve up a 99designs page.

Huh. Maybe they shoulda crowdsourced that.


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