“Google” is not Generic
The case involved whether a trademark owner should lose rights in instances when the trademark is frequently used as a verb such as in the phrase “Google it.”
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that “googled” may have become synonymous for Internet searching, but that does not mean that the company cannot protect its name.
Under federal law, anyone can wipe out a trademark as well as the legal protection it officer, if it can be shown that most of the public thinks of the mark as a common work for a good or service. This has happened to other brands in the past, including Kleenex. This has come to be known as “generocide.”
The court cited an earlier decision involving a restaurant that replaced customers’ order for “a coke” with a non Coca-Cola beverage. Coke won the case because the restaurant failed to show that people thought of cola and coke interchangeably.
While Google is dominant for search engines, it is not dominant that its trademark is in doubt. Even with the verbing of its trademark, consumers still clearly understand that there are other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo! and that Google merely denotes one of them.
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Reinhard von Hennigs
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