The news that Weight Watchers International Inc has decided to drop its house brand WEIGHT WATCHERS in favour of “WW” is a useful reminder to all brand owners of the need to look ahead when setting about choosing your brand name.

Weight Watchers has been using the famous brand name WEIGHT WATCHERS for over fifty years, not just for its well-known weight-loss programs, but equally for its range of healthy-option food and drink products.

However, with the evolution of its business into health and wellness, the company has decided that its long-standing brand WEIGHT WATCHERS is no longer appropriate. Although its CEO has denied that its new brand “WW” still means “weight watchers”, he declined to say what those two letters actually stand for.

Descriptive or allusive trade marks are always popular with marketeers because they immediately inform the consumer about the kind of products or services under offer. A potential disadvantage of such trade marks, however, is that they can be difficult to protect by way of trade mark registration. This is because the UKIPO or EUIPO can object to registration of a word mark which directly describes the products or services or their characteristics.

Moreover, even if registered, descriptive marks can be difficult to enforce successfully against infringers or “look -a-likes” because they usually enjoy merely a narrow scope of protection. Making just a small change might be enough for an infringer or mimic to avoid infringement.

However, Weight Watchers’ rebrand also highlights the need to consider the possible future evolution of your business and whether your branding will still be “fit for purpose” if it grows into new or different areas. If Specsavers BV had known that they would in future provide hearing aids as well as spectacles, we may wonder if they would have chosen the brand name SPECSAVERS from the outset, given its strong and immediate reference to eyesight. Given that the brand SPECSAVERS contradicts the hearing-loss offering, it could be said to be unfit for purpose.

If you can consider the future possibilities for your business when originally selecting your brand name, you may therefore avoid the potentially huge cost and expense either of having to educate your public as to what your evolved business concerns, or even having to undergo a re-branding in order to accommodate your new offering.

Whether you decide to plump for a descriptive or allusive brand name, you should try to ensure that your trade mark will be flexible enough to handle future changes of direction or other evolutions of your business.