Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Clive Palmer and the Titanic Brand

Eccentric Australian billionaire #ClivePalmer is well-known for his obsession with the sunken ocean liner, RMS Titanic. This obsession is manifesting itself in not just a desire to re-make James Cameron's film about the ship. Palmer is quietly acquiring the intellectual property around the entire line of ships associated with the Titanic. He currently has 38 trade mark applications pending in Australia, and 17 of these are either related to the Titanic (such as its sister ships, Gigantic, Britannic, and Olympic) or its original owner, Blue Star Line.




Blue Star Line was a British passenger and cargo shipping company that was formed in 1911. The shipping company has ended operations in 1998 but it still has residual goodwill attached to its name, which would explain the motive behind Palmer's desire to revive the brand.

This is known as "zombie branding" - reviving a dead brand which has inherent goodwill. Zombie brands are very successful ways of marketing. The most famous example of zombie branding is the luxury car brand Maybach, established in 1909, ceased trading in 1960, and revived by Daimler in 1997. (See also here: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303513404577352082845116146.html and http://articles.latimes.com/2013/jan/05/business/la-fi-trademark-trolls-20130106)

There are a number of issues that Clive Palmer needs to hurdle if he wants all of his Titanic-related trade marks to become registered. Chief amongst these is RMS Titanic Inc, a company which has salvaged relics from the wreck of the Titanic and tours the world with a highly-regarded exhibition. One of Palmer's other pending trade marks is 'RMS Olympic,' which could ruffle the feathers of the International Olympic Committee. Controversy around this strategy seems inevitable.

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