June 13, 2000 4:25 PM PDT

Loudcloud rains on Thundercloud's parade

Netscape Communications co-founder Marc Andreessen has a new message for the high-tech world: Get off of my cloud.

Having coined an unusual moniker for his latest venture, Loudcloud, Andreessen is aggressively policing perceived trademark violations.

Thundercloud Networks got the message loud and clear: The Cambridge, Mass.-based Internet networking outfit said today it will change its recently updated corporate name back to PFN to resolve a lawsuit that Loudcloud filed two months ago in federal court in San Jose, Calif.

"We went through the normal search and discovery and determined there wasn't a problem," said PFN chief executive Harley Stowell, although he admitted Loudcloud did come up in the review process as a possible conflict.

"There's a good precedent in theMarc Andreessen Loudcloud chairman consumer retail market where there's much more competition. Wal-Mart and Kmart can coexist, but we can't use this name. Things are out of control."

With hundreds of new start-ups testing their wings, getting the rights to a compelling company name can be a challenge.

In an interview, Andreessen and Loudcloud CEO Ben Horowitz said that "Loudcloud" is a play on a term from the early days of telephones, when everything behind the wall jack was known as the cloud.

Their goal was to build a company that would be such a cloud for Web businesses, offering a simple plug-and-play interface while concealing all of the complexities involved in conducting e-commerce.

In a brainstorming session, a question arose: To be a wimpy cloud or a loud cloud. The name took.

"We hired a naming consultant," Andreessen said. "But after going through hundreds of names we came back to this one, which is the one we started with."

Loudcloud spokeswoman Martina Lauchengco said the company filed a suit to block PFN's use of "Thundercloud" because it was concerned the name might lead to confusion.

Founded in 1995, PFN creates business-to-business Internet networking technology.

Loudcloud launched last year, with Andreessen as chairman. It provides Web-hosting services for Internet companies.

PFN's Stowell said he believes his company would have had a strong chance of winning in court if the lawsuit had gone to trial. But he said he could not justify the legal costs involved in defending the name.

"It's too bad, because we like it," he said. "But in the end, it's just a name. I think the perception of the significance is a little different on the East Coast than it is on the West Coast."

 

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