U.S.

Federal appeals court upholds Google trademark

Federal appeals court upholds Google trademark

Genericide, as it's known, is the curse of companies whose brands gain such strong currency in the marketplace that they morph into product categories. "Think of aspirin, escalator, thermos or yo-yo, but not Coke".

“The term ‘GOOGLE, is, or has become, a generic term universally used to describe the action of internet searching with any search engine, which can not serve as a trademark to the exclusion of others, ” the two said in their complaint.

Google defeated a "genericide" lawsuit Tuesday that claimed Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet".

Foster said the circuit court's decision sets precedent on the question of "verbbing" a trademarked name.

Josh Gerben, an attorney based in Washington said, agreed that genericness is "something where a trademark is no longer able to identify a particular source of a product or service".

One of the two plaintiffs in the suit, Chris Gillespie, had acquired 763 domain names that included the word "google". Google now joins that list after the company prevailed in an appeals court case, originally filed in an Arizona federal court.




The term "Google" is so widely used that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary back in 2006. The District Court disagreed, and found that there was insufficient evidence to deem "Google" to be a generic term.

The new ruling comes via the Ninth Circuit Appeals Court (via ArsTechnica), in a case in which Google has now used all of its appeals. Google objected that the registrations amounted to cybersquatting.

It's hard to imagine any brand name that would be immune to the risk of genericide.

Courts often look to evidence such as consumer surveys and testimonies to determine whether the primary significance of a brand name has changed or not, and also consider how the trademark owner is using the name in advertising or even how competitors are using the brand name.

But the use of google as a verb doesn't automatically constitute generic use, even if a majority of the public uses the word in a generic sense for internet searches, the appeals court said.

On cross-motions for summary judgment, however, U.S. District Judge Stephen McNamee sided with Google on its primary contention—that no matter how “google” is used as a verb, the public understands the trademark to refer to the companys search engine and no others. But it does not mean, "hey google the score to the game" and then go to Bing to do it.


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