Google: Not So Evil

by on August 16, 2006 · 2 comments

The Register has a sensible commentary defending Google’s campaign to prevent people from using “google” as a generic term:

When the Washington Post reported that “Google” had entered the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, it observed that the word has become a descriptor for its sector. Google wrote that it must avoid “genericide” and provided a list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of its name.

Among its examples was this appropriate use: “I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party”; and this inappropriate use: “I googled that hottie.”

Google no doubt hoped that a light-hearted example would avoid the company sounding oppressive. It has to send letters like this; but its lawyers know that it has only limited powers to dictate how the brand is used. So the letters are seeking support, not threatening litigation.

The risk for Google is that it ceases to become a brand altogether. If it becomes generic, the brand can be struck from the register of trademarks, leaving the owner without rights. This has happened before: escalator, aspirin, pogo, gramophone and linoleum were once registered trademarks that became victims of genericide.

On the other hand, I think it’s harder to defend Apple’s campaign against anyone who uses the letters p-o-d in their products on these grounds. The products in question were not direct competitors to the iPod, and they aren’t even using the whole name.

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