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Off topic: Google lawyers may sue you for using this verb!
Thread poster: Magda Dziadosz

Magda Dziadosz  Identity Verified
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Aug 15, 2006

From today's The Independent:
"Search engine giant Google, known for its mantra "don't be evil", has fired off a series of legal letters to media organisations, warning
them against using its name as a verb."
http://news.independent.co.uk/business/news/article1218805.ece



Magda


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María Teresa Taylor Oliver  Identity Verified
Panama
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:P Aug 15, 2006


In June, Google won a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, while "to google", with a lower case "g", was included last month in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, America's leading reference book.


Indeed, there it is:


Main Entry: goo·gle Pronunciation Guide
Pronunciation: primarystressgü-gschwal
Function: transitive verb
Inflected Form(s): goo·gled; goo·gling \-g(schwa-) lieng\
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: Google, trademark for a search engine
Date: 2001
: to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web

http://unabridged.merriam-webster.com/cgi-bin/collegiate?book=Dictionary&va=google


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
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Ridiculous! Aug 15, 2006

Hoover Corporation never objected when the verb "to hoover" was used meaning "to vacuum-clean" (as it was, widely, at one time - not so common nowadays). They just looked on it as welcome free publicity for their brand name, and Google should do the same.

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María Teresa Taylor Oliver  Identity Verified
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Exactly! Aug 15, 2006

Jack Doughty wrote:

Hoover Corporation never objected when the verb "to hoover" was used meaning "to vacuum-clean" (as it was, widely, at one time - not so common nowadays). They just looked on it as welcome free publicity for their brand name, and Google should do the same.


Not that I know about "hoovering" (I do know the brand name, but I never vacuum anyway), but what about Kleenex tissues? We never say "tissues" at home (well, the equivalent Spanish word anyway), but Kleenex. How about Kotex, or Q-tips, or... [insert any number of genericized brand names here].


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Monika Rozwarzewska  Identity Verified
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..and pampers Aug 15, 2006

when my son was a baby, he wore "pampers" even if the brand name was different. Anyway, as for Google, I don't suppose that their lawyers can stop people from saying "I googled that hottie"

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Victor Dewsbery  Identity Verified
Germany
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It's not cricket ... Aug 15, 2006

... but cricket gives us a different slant on the history of the word.

A "googly" is a ball that is bowled with the intention of tricking the batsman, because it bounces off the ground in an unexpected direction.

Apparently, it is known in OZ as a "wrong 'un".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Googly

The word pre-dates the search machine by almost a century.


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Luis Arri Cibils  Identity Verified
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Whether Google will prevail is an open question, but it is worth billions trying Aug 15, 2006

Google is a strong, federally-registered (and I imagine, protected not only in the US) trademark. Today there was a poll about our, ProZ members' and users’, home page. In the comments connected to that poll, many of us said: Google.

A strong mark is protected under trademark anti-dilution laws, in addition to regular trademark protection laws, which means that the name cannot be used not only as a trademark to identify a browser but also as a mark to identify other products.

This link, http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/showfield?f=toc&state=t3sp21.1.1&p_search=searchss&p_L=50&BackReference=&p_plural=yes&p_s_PARA1=&p_tagrepl~:=PARA1$LD&expr=PARA1%20AND%20PARA2&p_s_PARA2=google&p_tagrepl~:=PARA2$COMB&p_op_ALL=AND&a_default=search&a_search=Submit%20Query&a_search=Submit%20Query [I am sorry, this search is expired. To reproduce go to www.uspto.gov; on the left, click on search trademarks; on the next page, enter google on the box "search term".], to the US Patent and Trademark Office lists all trademarks, registered and applied for, regarding the word Google. Please note that in 2006, after the word was accepted as a verb by a dictionary, there were three applications for the name Google as a trademark, in business areas completely unrelated to Google’s business activities. There is no other prior trademark application for the word Google, not belonging to Google, Inc.

A mark can be lost and at least diluted, if it is used generically. I am copying below a powerpoint slide from a law firm's Internet presentation, teaching how to protect trademarks. This presentation is copyrighted. While copying one slide of the multi-slide presentation is within the “fair use” exception to copyright infringement, I am copying the copyright notice that the law firm put on each page of the presentation. I have no knowledge about that law firm.

I am also copying below a post from another forum, outside ProZ, commenting about this issue, and an ABA article addressing the issue whether the use of a trademark as a name or verb can have a negative effect on the enforceability of the mark.

I suspect that in the near future this issue will be tested in court, Google v. Another Deep Pocket. It’ll be interesting to watch.
------------------------------
• Losing Your Trademark
o Genericide
 Always Use With Common Product Name (“Kleenex® Brand Tissues)
 Never Use As A Verb Unless It Is One (Not “Xerox® This Paper,” But “Supersize® That Order” is OK)
 Always Capitalize, Never Abbreviate or Pluralize
 Never Ever Use As A Generic Noun!!
 (Never “Scotch Tape® Those Items Together”)
http://72.14.209.104/search?q=cache:Lre4Q9GMj8UJ:www.invention-protection.com/ip/presentations/powerpoint/IPforArtists.ppt%20trademark%20dilution%20"use%20as%20a%20verb"&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=1

© 2002, Gallagher & Dawsey Co., L.P.A.

---------------------------------
From another forum:

 The problem Google is faced with here is defending their trademark from Genericity. At least in some jurisdiction around the world, when your trademark becomes 'generic' you loose the right to enforce it. That is why Xerox pushed the name 'Photocopier' when they realised people were begining to call it a 'Xerox machine.' Problem is, if 'Xerox machine' enters into the language, any manufacturer could call their photocopier a "Xerox machine" and Xerox would be unable to stop them. This is also why McDonalds threatens any one who calls their restaurant McX.
http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/03/02/25/1943247.shtml?tid=133

----------------------------

Whether failure to prevent the use of Google as a verb would prevent enforceability of the mark appears to be an open question:

A couple of cases discuss the use of terms as a verb or
noun and hold the terms generic or otherwise unenforceable
as trademarks. However, these cases do not
involve established trademarks that are used later
as verbs, but rather terms that were generic from the
beginning. In America Online, Inc. v. AT&T Corp.,13 the
district court found “IM” to be generic, finding “IM” to
be an initialism for “instant message.” The district court
noted that, despite management’s admonitions against
using “IM” as a noun or a verb, AOL employees used
“IM” as a noun or verb in lieu of “instant message.”
It also pointed to books, dictionaries, and glossaries
defining “instant message” with the “IM” designation.
On appeal, the Fourth Circuit stopped short of holding
“IM” generic, while denying AOL enforcement of “IM”
as its trademark.14 Another example of a generic term
unsuited for use as a trademark is found in In re Lativ
Systems, Inc.,15 where the Trademark Trial and Appeal
Board held that VINYLIZING—the verb form of the
generic term “vinyl”—was a generic name for a process
of applying a vinyl compound to auto bodies. In these
cases the courts did not hold that the terms were generic
due to use as a verb, but instead that the terms were not
protectable trademarks because they were not used to
refer solely to the trademark owner’s products.


http://www.abanet.org/intelprop/bulletin/winter_04.pdf


[Edited at 2006-08-15 22:43]

[Edited at 2006-08-15 22:44]

[Edited at 2006-08-15 22:46]

[Edited at 2006-08-15 22:58]


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
They can try, but... Aug 15, 2006

Luis Arri Cibils wrote:
The problem Google is faced with here is defending their trademark from Genericity. At least in some jurisdiction around the world, when your trademark becomes 'generic' you loose the right to enforce it.


... I am afraid it will be a lost battle, unless Google is able to sue every person who uses the verb "to google" in their every day conversations. They can threaten the media, but how are they going to control the millions of people using it every day, I wonder?

Also, how ironical. It used to be that "genericity" was the dream of any manufacturer as it meant that the name of their product had replaced a whole idea in the mind of consumers... I guess not anymore...


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Vito Smolej
Germany
Local time: 00:37
Member (2004)
English to Slovenian
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well, shouldn't we try to microsoft something instead? Aug 15, 2006

Or maybe somebody? Like Steve Balmer? Oops, he's getting goo*d.

[Edited at 2006-08-15 23:30]


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Luis Arri Cibils  Identity Verified
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Actually, Rosa, Aug 16, 2006

Rosa Maria Duenas Rios wrote:


... I am afraid it will be a lost battle, unless Google is able to sue every person who uses the verb "to google" in their every day conversations. They can threaten the media, but how are they going to control the millions of people using it every day, I wonder?


they do not need to sue everybody in the world. They just need to sue "Another Big Pocket", which gets too close: "Google your doubts with our own "googling machine" (or worse, our "google machine" (no cap in google)" Once they get, if they do (not a clear thing), a recovery of 8-9 digits, or even 10, for all practical purposes, they won, provided they do not use "google your doubts using the only one Google".

This, of course, presents lotsa ethical issues. Can a firm prevent the rest of us doing anything, or using the words we choose?

On the flip side, let's take a look to two of the current applicants for the word Google as a trademark:

(a) A real estate brokerage firm; application filed: August 6, 2006.

(b) A sports equipment company; application filed: June 11, 2006. (Notice the dates)

Do they have rights to exploit Google's marketing efforts? Still undecided.

The bottom line is: if Google is successful preventing the dilution of their mark, because it is a strong mark, these applications might possibly be rejected. I do not know any product, other than the soft drink, called Coca Cola. (A relatively weak mark might get protection only in a given field, as the consumers will not be confused and believe that the second product comes from the same manufacturer of the first product --this prevention of confusion is the "ethical" justification of the laws granting trademark protection).

IP rights are monopolies. The owners of the right want as wide recognition as possible, but for their products, not for a generic product. Xerox wants recognition of their "xeroxcopier" not of any photocopier in the world. And the monopoly is granted, theoretically as a sort of an ethical tradeoff, so the public is not confused and misled about the origin of the product.

Is that justification enough to grant a monopoly? Probably, the question is even more poignant in patent cases. Say, a pharma company has a patent on a miracle medication that cures AIDS. Should a monopoly be granted such as nobody can buy that miracle prescription other than in the terms and at the price fixed by the company having the monopoly? And, on the flip side, if that monopoly is not granted, would any one invest all the research money needed, knowing that anybody can easily reverse engineer the medication and profit without having made all the needed investment?



[Edited at 2006-08-16 00:35]


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Rosa Maria Duenas Rios  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:37
I probably did not make myself clear enough Aug 16, 2006

Hi Luis,
I know Google will go after deep pockets; I also know how the patents and trademakrs work, and Google will probably be able to avoid anybody else from registering their trademark or any derivatives whatsoever. What I meant is that I do not believe they will be able to stop people from using "to google", "I googled it", "you can find it by googling", and all those other exprssions. Can they make the Oxford take the term away from its dictionary? That would be interesting to see.

This reminds my of when some record labels went after a handful of students who had downloaded songs and redistributed them among friends. I think they made several students pay between 3,500 and 5,000 dollars, just to use them as an example and scare others away from doing the same thing. However, I do not think they were succesful in preventing the practice. This is what I think will happen with Google. Maybe no other entity will be able to register the "brand", but it will be impossible to stop people from using words derivated from it in everday life.


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Luis Arri Cibils  Identity Verified
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Similar cases Aug 16, 2006

Hi Rosa,

Look at this excerpt from Wikipedia:

The word "xerox" is commonly used as a synonym for "photocopy" (both as a noun and a verb) in North American English; for example, "I xeroxed the document and placed it on your desk." Though common, the company does not condone such uses of its trademark, and is particularly concerned about the ongoing use of Xerox as a verb as this places the trademark in danger of being declared a generic word by the courts. The company is engaged in an ongoing campaign to convince the public that Xerox should not be used as a verb.

To this end, the company has written to publications that have used Xerox as a verb, and has also purchased print advertisements declaring that "you cannot 'xerox' a document, but you can copy it on" a photocopier, particularly "a Xerox Brand copying machine." The AP Stylebook respects trademarks. Xerox Corporation continues to protect its trademark diligently in most if not all trademark categories. Despite their efforts, many dictionaries continue to mention the use of "xerox" as a verb including the Oxford English Dictionary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Xerox#Trademark_issues

Google has started to do what Xerox has been doing for quite a while to protect their mark. And it is doing it the same way, writing to publications that have used Xerox/Google as verbs, or printing ads saying "you cannot "xerox" a document, but you can photocopy in a copying maching." (Expect the same: "you can't google a word, but you can search for it using a browser.") In the end, the word will likely continue in use. (I, one of many, do say, "I am going to xerox this document.") But so far, there are many trademarks containing the word Xerox, (you can check in TESS, the USPTO trademark browser I cited in my previous post), but they all belong to Xerox Inc. What they need to avoid is that those words become the equivalent to aspirin, yo-yo, thermos that once were trademarks. That's their goal, not that Merriam-Webster remove the word from the dictionary. Of course, if a deep pocket crosses the line, litigation will follow.


[Edited at 2006-08-16 03:50]


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Harry Hermawan  Identity Verified
Indonesia
Local time: 05:37
Member (2005)
English to Indonesian
Off Topic: Google lawyers may sue you for using this verb! Aug 16, 2006

Hmm interesting thread. That's copyright for you, which is why I prefer a copyleft.



[Edited at 2006-08-16 09:47]


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
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Good one Aug 16, 2006

Harry Djuhari wrote:

copyleft.


There was a time in the agricultural communities of Asia when Ministries of Industry had to explain that such inventions as rice huskers, mechanical harvesters, pea-shellers, etc., were, in fact, patentable, could, and should be used to generate income for their inventors.

This was because the first grassroots reaction in those communities was to go to the next town and spread the news, offering to share the improvements free of charge. The common farmer of that time (the fifties and sixties) seemed unable to grasp the concept that he should get rich on an idea that could benefit everybody.

Hence, it came about that "inventions" such as the yo-yo were actually objects of traditional cultures that enterprising outsiders had discovered in existence. (It certainly explains why anti-piracy operations in Asia are generally a tall order to enforce.)


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
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I still prefer AltaVista anyway :-) Aug 16, 2006

Many years ago my parents knew a quiet, shy doctor who practised in remote country villages. His name, (would you believe it?) was Donald Duck.

Somehow the Disney Corp. in all its might got to hear of him and threatened to sue him for using "their" name. Extremely upset, he consulted a lawyer.

The lawyer could not help laughing - and suggested sending a copy of the doctor's birth certificate to Disney & co. with a counter claim.

Mr and Mrs Duck had decided to christen their baby son Donald several years before young Walt started drawing cartoons for a living... so Walt was not the first to use the name, and nothing ever came of that lawsuit.

* * * * * * * *
BTW, lots of Danes call using a search engine ' to goggle' instead of the version with two o's and only one g



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