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The Courts Google

Court Rules the "Google" Trademark Isn't Generic 159

ericgoldman writes Even though "googling" and "Google it" are now common phrases, a federal court ruled that the "Google" trademark is still a valid trademark instead of a generic term (unlike former trademarks such as escalator, aspirin or yo-yo). The court distinguished between consumers using Google as a verb (such as "google it"), which didn't automatically make the term generic, and consumers using Google to describe one player in the market, which 90%+ of consumers still do.
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Court Rules the "Google" Trademark Isn't Generic

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  • ...then I'll just have to start calling it the googley.

    • To google something is to use a company's search engine to search the web, and that fact was created by said company. Search engines existed long before google, so it wouldn't be fair to allow another search engine such as bing to present a text box and a button that said "Google It!". Trademarks don't come with usage limits.
      • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:19PM (#47913263)
        More to the point, when people use, "Google," as a verb, they mean to actually use Google, as opposed to using any brand of facial tissue available when saying, "Kleenex."

        Besides, if Coca-Cola can retain, "Coke," as a trademark when vast portions of the country refer to basic soft carbonated soda drinks of any type as, "coke," then I don't think that those challenging Gogole's trademark have much of a chance.
        • More to the point, when people use, "Google," as a verb, they mean to actually use Google, as opposed to using any brand of facial tissue available when saying, "Kleenex."

          Besides, if Coca-Cola can retain, "Coke," as a trademark when vast portions of the country refer to basic soft carbonated soda drinks of any type as, "coke," then I don't think that those challenging Gogole's trademark have much of a chance.

          Let me Xerox off a few examples of when similar Noun/Verb phrases lost their trademark in the past.

          • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:46PM (#47913433)
            In my experience, very few people use "Xerox" as a verb. I've much more often heard "make some copies on the Xerox machine" (and less often without the "machine") referring generically to a photocopier.

            In any case, bad example, as Xerox still holds their trademark.
            • Just remember, your own experience is anecdotal. When I was in school 'Xeroxing' was used more often than 'copying' by the government worker types I was exposed to.

              Darn near everything today is 'copied' using a form of laser printer technology, but back when I was a kid 'photocopies' were xerox machines, but you also had 'ditto' machines that the schools would use when they needed 60+ copies of something - it'd produce slightly funny looking blue ink copies that were normally not quite centered/straight on

          • by preaction ( 1526109 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:51PM (#47913449)

            Here's a Band-Aid to apply to that burn. Take some Aspirin, too.

          • Let me Xerox off a few examples of when similar Noun/Verb phrases lost their trademark in the past

            Before Xerox came out with the photocopy machine which uses plain-paper for duplicating purposes, were there any such machine on the market?

            No?

            Before Google was online, was there any online search engine?

            Yes!

            Yahoo, Astavista, ... amongst others

            Coke gets to retain its trademark precisely because Coke wasn't the first mass-marketed bottled soft drink either

            The one big problem with Yahoo is it cluttered up its interface - even from the start we users already complained about their interface, but they just won

            • It wasn't just about interface. People tend to forget how search engines did an absolutely horrible job of intelligently ranking the sites you wanted to see. They relied primarily upon keywords and other sort of fairly obvious metrics on the site itself, which of course can be significantly gamed. I've seen "tag clouds" on some sites and blogs, which I'm presuming is due in part to one of the historical metrics being how large a visible word is on a site - the obvious presumption being that keywords in t

              • It wasn't just about interface. People tend to forget how search engines did an absolutely horrible job of intelligently ranking the sites you wanted to see.

                I find it pretty easy to remember - I go to Google today.

                The UI was what made me switch both to Google originally and from it some years later. When I started using Google - and when Google started gaining significant market share - most users were on 56Kb/s or slower modem connections. AltaVista was the market leader and they'd put so much crap in their front page that it took 30 seconds to load (and then another 20 or so to show the results). Google loaded in 2-3 seconds. The AltaVista search results

                • > I switched away when they made the up and down arrow keys...

                  Didn't notice that yet. What's putting me on the verge of switching is Google's phasing out (or appearance thereof) of any kind of "hard" searching. Unfortunately, I haven't found any good alternatives with better "hard" search capability.

                  • I switched to DuckDuckGo and haven't looked back. They used to be noticeably worse in results quality, but Google has gone a long way downhill. Occasionally I don't find things with DDG and try Google. When I do, I have to wade through pages of totally irrelevant stuff to find that there are no matches, whereas at least DDG tells me straight away that it can only find half a dozen possibly-relevant things. I especially like the way DDG integrates with a number of domain-specific search engines.
                • Pro-tip, which I learned recently: Google has actually a hidden (well, obscure, it's there but there's no reason you'd think it does what it does) option that means "Just give me the results using the algorithms you used back when Google was useful." Search Tools -> (All Results) : Verbatim.

                  No, you can't make it a default. They track that you're probably male, probably interested in tech, and that you'd be a good person to present ads for spiked leather underpants to, but they don't track that you act

            • by bipbop ( 1144919 )
              For over a decade, there's been a simplified search page similar to Google's at http://search.yahoo.com/ [yahoo.com]. Of course, there's no reason to use Yahoo! Search anymore, but they did listen back then. (I was working there at the time, so I have a decent but probably imperfect memory of the timeline.)
            • Yahoo, Astavista, ... amongst others

              Astavista? Thank you for pointing out what kind of search queries you were intrested in :-)

          • Let me Xerox off a few examples of when similar Noun/Verb phrases lost their trademark in the past.

            One of them isn't Xerox, which is still a valid trademark. Most people say "photocopy" as the generic term. I have seldom heard "Xerox". I don't ever recall anyone using "Google" as a generic verb for search, as in "I googled for it with Bing."

            • My wife would first google Google so she could do a web search. Technologically challenged doesn't begin to describe her.
        • by msauve ( 701917 )
          I can certainly envision someone, having been told to "google it," simply searching using Google or Bing or Dogpile to search.
        • Nah, I google with bing all the time.

        • More to the point, when people use, "Google," as a verb, they mean to actually use Google, as opposed to using any brand of facial tissue available when saying, "Kleenex."

          Exactly! You can't google something using Bing, for example. Not that you'd want to anyway. You can only google something using Google.

          (Now I feel like I need to go wash my hands after mentioning Bing. Eww.)

        • But "Kleenex" is still a trademark, like "Band-Aid", "Lego", and "Nintendo". It's a very fuzzy line, and companies fight like hell against it.

          "I am stuck on Band-Aid (brand)" just doesn't have the same cadence as the original jingle...

        • I used to use Bing to look up Katy Perry so I could say I binged her.

        • Yeah this is what I was thinking. Nobody says to google it on Bing; they tell you to google it, or try using Bing instead. We may have forgotten what a "search" is, but we still say "use Yahoo" or "try Bing" if googling fails.

          Nobody says "well use Bing to google it then".

          • Nobody says "well use Bing to google it then".

            I've heard several people say "I'll google it on Bing." Mostly older people who have Windows 8 & IE as their browser by default. Your argument is invalid.

        • I know in some places (southern US mostly)...

          "what do you want to drink"
          "a coke"
          "what kind of coke, cola, sprite...?"

      • sometimes I google with bing or duckduckgo.
      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        However Google is not the original use of the word as in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B... [wikipedia.org]. So Barney Google and his Googly eyes and this of course led to google eyed and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T... [wikipedia.org]. This is where Google management got it's search (visual action) from, just your typical nerdy geek derivative use of language, although they emphatically disingenuously deny it now. Looks like there'll be a right barney http://onlineslangdictionary.c... [onlineslan...ionary.com] over the word google yet to come. Sorry guys just b

  • But how long until googling becomes the standard term for any web search? It is conveniently shorter, after all. And probably more specific, since search engines sometimes search stuff not directly on the web.

    • "Google" is not shorter than "search," and it even has more syllables.
      • Perhaps not, but "Google" refers to searching on the Internet using a search engine (preferably Google, if it becomes necessary to duplicate results). Therefore, "Google" is certainly shorter and more specific than "Search the internet".
        • And "work" is much shorter than "having a beer at the local bar". But I still can't use the term "I'm at work" when I'm getting wasted. Words have meanings and are not interchangeable, you know...

      • googleing is shorter than "performing a web search". Go google it, is quick than "go perform a web search on that".
        • It's not shorter when you make an apples to apples comparison.

          "Go google it" is equivalent to "go web search it."

          More words and more characters, sure, but the same number of syllables.

    • Re:Lucky them (Score:5, Informative)

      by wisnoskij ( 1206448 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:17PM (#47913239) Homepage
      That is how the word is used now, and the summery even states that the ruling takes this into account. They know that googleing is a generic word, but Google is not. A search engine is not called a google, only Google is called Google. This does not change just because googleing is a generic term for performing a internet searching.
      • Re:Lucky them (Score:4, Insightful)

        by steelfood ( 895457 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:54PM (#47913467)

        Actually, when people say googling, they really do mean "look it up using Google." They don't mean "look it up using DuckDuckGo" or "look it up using Yelp" or "look it up using Ask.com" or "look it up using Wolfram Alpha."

        When Google no longer dominates generic web search (as opposed to specialized internet search like Yelp) and there are other comparable players, only then would there be a case for genericization. Until then, when you say googling, people think search using Google. That's actually fairly specific (unusually so even) in terms of word meaning.

        • Actually, when people say googling, they really do mean "look it up using Google."

          Actually, no, they don't. They mean "look it up with whatever search engine you usually use". As in, google it with Bing" [duckduckgo.com].

          • And my old clueless aunt calls Firefox "Internet Explorer". And even if she means Firefox, that's still wrong!

            Going to court to allow using wrong semantics... sorry, but we're definitly headed towards "Idiocracy"!

          • That sounds like something Microsoft would do on purpose to try to get Google's trademark taken away from them as being generic. Sleazy and low, just how Microsoft likes it!
          • The results I get seem to be mostly people trying to come up with clever blog titles, not actually cases where someone innocently said "Well, I googled what you asked for, and Bing gave me over a gajillion results."

            Indeed, I suspect there are multiple levels here. If someone tells me to "Go google something", I may use Bing in my quest to research whatever it is I've been asked to look up. OTOH, if I say "Well, I googled it, and found...", it'll generally be the case that I'm saying I actually used Googl

        • Don't forget that "googling" something only has to do with web searches. If you "youtube" something, even though it's owned by google, you're still looking up videos specifically. It's just easier to communicate when you're allowed to be non-specific. "Get in the car" is much easier to communicate than "Get in the Mazda MX-5 Miata" and we all know it. It's only assholes that require specifics in this area. ...and we all know it.
        • Actually, when people say googling, they really do mean "look it up using Google." They don't mean "look it up using DuckDuckGo"

          No, they mean "look it up using an internet search engine." I've seen plenty of more clueless folks who just happen to have Yahoo or Bing or whatever as their default search page that opens in their browser, and they still use the word "google," rather than a cumbersome phrase like "use an internet search engine to find..."

          or "look it up using Yelp" or "look it up using Ask.com" or "look it up using Wolfram Alpha."

          You're right, they don't mean those things, because those are specialized search, not a generic web search, which is what "googling" means.

          When Google no longer dominates generic web search (as opposed to specialized internet search like Yelp) and there are other comparable players, only then would there be a case for genericization.

          There are other "comparable players," at least

      • The closest analogy I can think of is Xerox. For a time during the 1980s, people would tell you "xerox it" instead of photocopy it. In both Xerox's and Google's cases, the company's name was being used as a generic verb for something their product did, but not as a generic description for a similar product by another company. And in both cases, the companies retained their trademark.
        • I'm calling the Walkman to the stand to support your point.

          (Intresting enough, over here "xeroxing" and "kleenex" never reached such a generic status)

    • by GNious ( 953874 )

      How about we "bing" that?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Hey I'm just here to warn you! Don't get scroogled! Use Microsoft Bing for all your search needs! Why just the other days I Binged for some tips on my Microsoft Xbox One home entertainment system with Kinect and I got a high score!

    This message brought to you by MS's laughably inept advertising department.

    • by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:14PM (#47913221) Journal

      BING
      IS
      NOT
      GOOGLE

    • I am not sure why "google" works as a verb, but MS made a bad choice in "Bing". I'm sorry, but saying you "binged" it sounds slightly obscene...Of course, it also does not work because the following sentence would feel right, "Ray Rice is in trouble because he did a bit more than just bing his girlfriend (now wife)."
      • I'm sorry, but saying you "binged" it sounds slightly obscene...

        Could be worse. Microsoft originally considered calling it "Bang".

        ...

        I'm not kidding. [seattleweekly.com] I guess they liked "Bang" because it conveyed a sense of, uh, instant gratification. Specifically:

        The company had several criteria in rebranding the search engine, he said. The company wanted a name that was one syllable and couldn't be misspelled and was as short as possible.

        Webster said he initially came up with "Bang." The name had a few things going for it, he noted. "It's there, it's an exclamation point," he said. "It's the opposite of a question mark."

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      Ah, I see you have the machine that goes "Bing!"

      This is my favorite. You see, we lease this back from the company we sold it to - that way it comes under the monthly current budget and not the capital account.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @05:13PM (#47913213) Journal

    You might even say this opens windows into trade mark law.

  • Generic doesn't begin to describe it.
  • Nice try..

    Who was it?

    Apple, M$? Some other vested interest?

    In any case, people know exactly what you are saying when they refer to "Googling".
    And it ain't Bing!

  • I'm shocked -- shocked! -- that Google isn't another generic Silicon Valley company.
  • Aspirin (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Adrian Harvey ( 6578 ) on Monday September 15, 2014 @06:22PM (#47913611)

    As a pedant, I'd like to note that aspirin did not become a generic as a result of its mass usage nor as the result of a court case, but was part of war reparations with Germany. See here [nowiknow.com] for more detail, or just google it :-)

  • That's really interesting how companies expend such huge efforts to make their brand a household name, and then they say they still want to own it for themselves exclusively. For example, so many people talk now about iphones, ipads and ipods as generic terms. That's sort of good for the vendor, but then when it really does become a generic term, they bring a ton of legal bricks down on anyone who does use their name generically. In other words, heads we win, tails you lose.

    Another really evil example i
  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Tuesday September 16, 2014 @06:17AM (#47916107) Homepage Journal
    I mean, specifically GO TO FUCKING GOOGLE.COM and use the search engine there. Not Bing, not whatever else, and especially not your "ask.com" tool bar that infected your computer. GOOGLE. Nobody uses it generically, they all mean specifically go to Google to search. It's you retards that don't know how to search that think we mean something else.
    • by neminem ( 561346 )

      I would mod you up, but I don't have mod points at the moment. So I will instead comment that this is entirely accurate: when I say that I xerox'd something, I have absolutely no clue whether the machine I used to copy a paper was actual a Xerox brand machine. When I say I used a kleenex, it's extremely *unlikely*, in fact, that I actually used a Kleenex-brand tissue.

      On the other hand, when I tell someone to google something, I mean use freaking Google, not anything else. Because everything else freaking bl

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      This might come as a shock, but this is not about you. This is about using a brand name as a generic word.
      Most people when they say "Google it" what they mean is "Do an online websearch with the searchengine of your choice."

      Most people will indeed use Google. The fact that some people do NOT use google when you ask them to "google it" is all the more evidence that it is generic.

      Just like when people used to say they had a Walkman, what they were saying was not "I have bought a specific device from Sony." Th

  • Kardashian is still not a trademark..
  • People say they need a Kleenex and grab a generic brand facial tissue. Few people say they'll "Google" something then proceed to use Bing.
  • Looks like the plaintiff in the case is one David Elliott, who owns the domains "googleDonaldTrump.com" and "googlegaycruises.com" (maybe others as well? I don't know...). Getting rid of spam URL's like these should improve the overall Internet.

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