What’s the motive: brand consultancy?
While the full extent of what Gleissner has been doing has gradually come into focus, the question remains: why? What would prompt someone to put in this time, effort and money?
One possible motive emerged in February 2020 when WTR discovered that he had launched a brand consultancy firm, N-Cubator. This claimed to have secured investment from a Chinese investment company and boasted of having access to “a large portfolio of trademarks and domain names”.
At the time, fresh evidence suggested that the planned business model was becoming a reality. Since the beginning of December 2019, an entity related to Gleissner – N-Cubator BV – had filed over 120 trademark applications at the EUIPO (click here for a searchable PDF). The applications were for terms often associated with Gleissner – single word marks of common English language terms (eg, animal names, colours and foods) with most being sought in Classes 9, 25, 35, 38 and 41.
The EUIPO applications invoked priority based on Canadian trademark applications filed earlier in 2019 that used applicant names including Endeavor Systems Limited and Shake Technologies Limited. However, these applicants appeared to be using virtual locations as their addresses – a classic tactic from the Gleissner playbook.
One exception was the applicant name at the EUIPO. According to a business records database, the company N-Cubator BV was formed in July 2018 and has a single director: Michael Gerhard Johannes Gleissner. What is more, it is based at an address in Swalmen in the Netherlands. In 2017 WTR identified a Gleissner entity called Baidu Europe based at the same Swalmen address and discovered that the building was a former police station that appeared to have been purchased by Gleissner in mid-2018. Also based at the Swalmen address, according to the business records database, is Fashion TV Brand Holdings (Gleissner’s TV network) and Morton & Associates LLP (a law firm operated by Jonathan Morton, legal correspondent for most of Gleissner’s US trademark applications). The address is also listed on a website for BaiduVPN, a VPN software product that appears to have been live in December 2019 but is no longer active. If Gleissner has been selling a digital product using the Baidu brand, it could be a concern for the well-known Chinese company that shares the name.
Crucially, N-Cubator BV does appear to be operating as a company. In February 2020 WTR identified two near-identical websites – ‘n-cubator.eu’ and ‘cubator.com’ – that claimed N-Cubator was “an up-and-coming launch platform” that helps Chinese and Japanese companies expand into Western markets. They also claimed that N-Cubator was “initiated by a group of investors led by China Capital” and was based “in the charming commune of Swalmen”.
Further, the N-Cubator website stated that it was a brand consultancy firm that could “fast track the laborious and costly search for a suitable brand”, expanding: “One of the biggest challenges for Chinese and Japanese companies lies within the problematic brand acceptance of locally recognised brands in most European languages, including English, that trace their roots to Romanic origins of words and syllables. On top of that, most startups know about the high costs to acquire the ‘.com’ domain name of a brand that resonates with the Anglo-American market. N-Cubator has access to a large portfolio of trademarks and domain names.”
It is unclear whether N-Cubator is fully operational as a brand consultancy. WTR has tried to contact the company by phone and email to no avail. However, our findings align closely with what our inside source told us in 2017 about ‘brand incubators’, which might suggest that N-Cubator is actively seeking to license or sell the trademark registrations that Gleissner has acquired.