Why AMD had to change the Zen name to Ryzen for its new chip architecture


You know when AMD’s Ryzen is launching, how much it’ll cost, and you even have a pretty good idea of its performance. But you might not know why AMD dropped the original Zen name for Ryzen, so we asked. And it all begins with what AMD couldn’t do with the brand.

As John Taylor, corporate vice president of marketing for AMD, describes it, AMD was between a rock and a hard place. Mike Clark, an engineering fellow at AMD who led the Zen architecture development, had dubbed the architecture “Zen” for the balance it struck between various aspects of the design. Fans who had followed Zen’s development would buttonhole AMD execs and rave about the Zen name: “‘I love Zen…there’s something about it I’m just connecting with,’ they’d say,” Taylor said.

The problem was that AMD simply couldn’t trademark Zen. Under U.S. law, trademarks need to be “strong” and unique, and there was already a wealth of Zen-named products out there, even among AMD’s own customers (like Asus and its ZenFone). So AMD had to look elsewhere for inspiration.

Ryzen: Tapping into AMD’s inner space geek

Like most major companies, AMD works with specialized naming agencies—yes, they exist—specifically to build a roster of future, trademarkable brand names. 

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