Overcoat Issue Two Covers

A Change of Name

Posted on April 23, 2012

We here at Undercoat believe in being open about what we do and why. With this in mind, here is an insight into the reasons behind our name change, written by our designer, Pete Saunders.

As many of you are aware, we recently went through a rebrand: changing our name and identity to what you see today. The reason for the change is straightforward: due to our name, United Airlines threatened us with legal action due to the similarity of our titles. For those of you who have never flown United, their in-flight magazine is called Hemispheres In-Flight Magazine and is seemingly much the same as any other airline magazine going around. A major point of contention for their company is that they believe we could have gained income by deceiving viewers into thinking that our publication was indeed United’s.

We assumed that the differences in the description, market, content, contributors, visual look of both the magazine and the website and a complete lack of branding relating to United would be enough to suggest that the two publications are entirely separate entities. However, United believed that there were enough similarities to warrant sending us a letter with a series of steps to follow in order to avoid legal action.

Even though I came up with the name — believing it to best represent our original goals and intentions — we moved forward as a creative team. Working in communications and branding for the last six years, infringement on intellectual property is always a big consideration due to the sheer volume of work that has been created in the past. As a publication is made up of many elements beyond the name, and with the amount of legal advice I received along the way, I believe that, if our situation were to ever reach the point of litigation, we would have won the case. However, as our legal opponent is a global powerhouse and has the time, money and overall resources, the fight was well beyond our means. The lawyers we had to deal with were understanding and personable, but they were ultimately professionals and had a job to do, so for the most part, we had to comply with their requests.

We have taken a lot of positives from this situation. The fact that United became aware of us so quickly and thought that there were grounds for legal proceedings should be taken as a compliment. I love the original name and what it represented; I am also grateful for the opportunity to re-define our brand, better articulate our goals and to work towards creating a name that is synonymous with quality creative work, intelligent discussion and overall inspiring content.

What this whole situation does illustrate, however, is how important brand recognition is to big business — even secondary or subsidiary names. If even a single person were to purchase our magazine under the impression that it was the United In-Flight Magazine, our attempt to create our own brand would have failed. It was never our intention to profit from the confusion of viewers. It has been a major goal from the start to create a publication/website that answers only to quality and we hold ourselves to the standard that we expect of others.

The idea of this project is to provide a long-term community for creativity with a sustainable environment that professionally benefits all who become involved in it. Unfortunately, even five or ten years in the future, our old name could still have caused some confusion. The opportunity to address this potential problem has been the silver lining in what has been an incredibly tiring and frustrating exercise. What we are left with is a new name and a goal to create a lasting brand that never runs the risk of being stuck in another’s shadow.


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