Recommended Reading: “Why Udacity and EdX Want to Trademark the Degrees of the Future—and What’s at Stake for Students”

In his recent article in EdSurge, Jeff Young (formerly of the Chronicle) profiles an emerging fringe world of post-secondary education where “Nanodegrees,” “MicroMasters,” and “MicroDegrees” are proliferating. Companies like Udacity and edX are looking to stake out territory in this emerging market and trademarking new degree types is one way they’re attempting to do that. Earlier branding efforts were meant to establish legitimacy across the board for this type of mini-degree or credential, but now the branding (and accompanying trademarking) seem to be an effort to signal quality and raise barriers to entry for other providers looking to enter the space. In order for this strategy to be successful, the timing has to be just right. Too soon and the category fails to establish itself, too late and and the category is awash in competition of uneven quality. The risk here could be that the incumbents are pulling the trigger too soon.

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