Yesterday’s article in the Wall Street Journal regarding TigerText struck us as yesterday’s news. TigerText is a Smartphone app that provides for the automatic deletion of a text message at a predetermined time interval (from seconds to days). The company is over a year old, has had at least two funding rounds that total over $2M (the Venture Capital Database lists a September, 2010, venture equity deal at $1.9M), and is growing impressively. But as we read the article from our rather parochial perspective, interesting IP value issues came to mind.
- The obvious one is the fact that it is called TigerText. Though the founder of the company swears the name has absolutely nothing to do with Tiger Woods' infamous issues with text messaging, the timing is more than suspicious. Here’s what the company says about it:
A. Tigers are notoriously difficult animals to track. TigerTexts are difficult to track as well. Fortuitously, we have also chosen to launch TigerText at the start the Year of the Tiger according to the Chinese Zodiac calendar which goes in 12 year cycles. The Year of the Tiger is auspicious for new technologies (or so we’ve been told by our Chinese Shaman!). B. We won't lie. It sounded pretty cool!
Right. The company was founded in February of 2010. The day after it launched, Time called it an “App for cheating spouses.” If the dates of the Tiger Woods scandal escape you, and why wouldn’t they, here’s a refresher.
The company now has over a half-million subscribers (at least the WSJ reports that many have downloaded the App), and their marketing dollars can focus on corporate accounts (and government mandates on document retention), BECAUSE their name, by itself, takes care of the personal market. Branding in this way appears to be a stroke of genius, this early in the game, unless someone of interest decides the infamy as well as the fame in the Tiger name are protected against such use.
2. The second IP issue that may bear watching is that nothing much is written about the attempt to protect the IP in the technology except “patent pending,” but the WSJ article refers to others in the space. Any success on the part of TigerText will bring investigations.
3. The most fun in this might be when TigerText realizes that protecting trade secrets (so that they remain secret, and, therefore, valuable) requires that companies implement policies and practices to maintain confidentiality. Now that this is a known technology, it may well be that an organization’s not using it in the future will be used as evidence to disqualify trade secret protections. We might see TigerText marketing personnel testing messages to this end.