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ACS Sues Google Over Use of 'Scholar' 285

Posted by timothy
from the because-scholarship-is-all-about-trademarks dept.
headisdead writes "John Batelle is noting that 'The American Chemical Society yesterday filed a complaint against Google, claiming the new Google Scholar infringes on its own product, called SciFinder Scholar.' Fairly typical subscription vs. free dispute, but with intellectual property issues thrown in for good measure."
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ACS Sues Google Over Use of 'Scholar'

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  • Language (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:10PM (#11062091)
    Step 1: Copywrite the dictionary
    Step 2: ???
    Step 3: Profit!
    • Re:Language (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:11PM (#11062103)
      Step 0: Learn to spell copyright
    • Re:Language (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nomadic (141991)
      Step 1: Copywrite the dictionary
      Step 2: ???
      Step 3: Profit!


      Step 1: Instantly assume any trademark dispute of any kind is completely meritless without looking at the actual issues involved or even reading the article.
      Step 2: ???
      Step 3: Profit!
      • by schmaltz (70977)
        "Aha! Google Scholar is free. SciFinder is paid. If Google Scholar wins out, SciFinder loses. They can't sue Google for making information free, but they can sue for trademark. Good luck, ACS. I think you're going to need it."
        • Re:RTFA (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Muhammar (659468) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @07:44PM (#11063034)
          ACS will win because it has trademark for the name which is a name for a scientific search engine.

          If there was a homework&tutoring service "Private Scholar" or a academia singles service "Lonely Scholar" and ACS went after it, if would be stupid and ACS would lose.

          Kellogs successfully prevented Chevron from using a tiger as a convenience store food maskot because the cartoon tiger looked a lot like the one on the box of cornflakes. (If the tiger was used to sell gasoline or motoroil it would be OK).

          On the free vs. fee-based controversy: unlike Google, Scifinder Scholar abstracts all chemistry and biology journals and chemical formulas there. With many leading journals producing thousands of pages every month each and hundreds of journals indexed, it costs enormous amount of man-time to keep the database up-to date. Maybe modern search technology can make the database building process cheaper. But there is no good way to index the structural formulas. Someone (with degree in chemistry) has to read the article, understand what it means and enter the chemicals, reactions and keywords one at the time.

        • Re:RTFA (Score:3, Insightful)

          It's not like Google Scholar has a lot invested in that name yet anyway, should they lose. Google will just rename it to something else and still blow ACS out of the water.
      • Re:Language (Score:4, Interesting)

        by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday December 11, 2004 @06:34PM (#11062655) Journal
        Step 1: Instantly assume any trademark dispute of any kind is completely meritless without looking at the actual issues involved or even reading the article.
        Anyone who took the trouble to read the article, the ACS's page (which I quoted in part because I did read the article) and Google's faq (just go to their Google Scholar page and click on the link) would see quite quickly the following:
        1. The ACS is going to lose big time in terms of paid subscriptions
        2. The Google service will allow for "Open Access" and self-publishing of peer-reviewed research, again kicking the ACS in the butt
        3. The ACS does not own the word "Scholar"
        4. The ACS is scared shitless
        5. The ACS, instead of trying to compete on merits, or evolve their product, is pretty much admitting that they're behind the tech curve by doing a slap suit
        Hey, maybe its time for someone to come out with a product that lets you do research on science fiction. We'll call it "SciFi Scholar". And let the ACS give us free publicity!!!

        In fact, I suggest that Google come out with a "Google SciFi Scholar" (unless they want to throw some $$$ my way, in which case I'd be more than happy to help out).

        • by siskbc (598067) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @10:29PM (#11063763) Homepage
          1. The ACS is going to lose big time in terms of paid subscriptions

          No way. I'm a chemist, a member of ACS, I've used scifinder scholar, and I've used google scholar. They're not the same thing, they shouldn't be confused, and furthermore google scholar doesn't provide fulltext access to ACS journals. So there is no effect upon subscriptions. Nor is there any real competition - the products don't even really serve the same purpose. If anyone should be scared of google scholar, it's ISI, makers of Web of Science/Knowldedge, the worst search of all time.

          The ACS is just being childish, and as a member, I'm embarassed.

    • ...it's sad...

  • Curious name clash (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mistersooreams (811324) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:11PM (#11062095) Homepage
    The name is fairly obvious for a product such as this, but not that obvious. I'm surprised Google allowed such a clash of names to occur, especially with such related products. I imagine it'll get settled out of court.
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:21PM (#11062173) Journal
      Not really - the ACS will lose this one. From the article:
      But when someone uses a trademark similar to ours, we have no choice but to take action&#151;to protect the goodwill that we have built over the years and to prevent the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace.
      What goodwill - the general public never heard of them. Google's product, on the other hand, is aimed at the general public - not the same product in either design or use. So there's no possibility of conmfusion.

      Furthermore, the names are not that similar. Looks like the next trend in marketing: Pimp your product by suing

      I'm sure SCO has prior art on that, though.

      • by danudwary (201586)
        Maybe the general public hasn't heard of SciFinder Scholar, but I and most of my colleagues in the lab use it almost daily. I'd wager most every physics/chemistry/biomed science grad student has used it at one time or another, as long as their institution pays for it (and I've not been to one that doesn't). <sarcasm> Gee, I can't imagine how anybody would confuse Google's science publication search service called Scholar with the ACS's science publication search service called SciFinder Scholar. </
        • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara.hudson@NOSpAM.barbara-hudson.com> on Saturday December 11, 2004 @06:01PM (#11062432) Journal
          As you point out, people just call it SciFinder. So, if google had called it Google SciFinder, ... maybe. But even then, it's not enough to cause confusion in anyone's mind (at least anyone who's likely to use the product).

          The article says "over 1000 institutions", which is nowhere near the majority of institutions world-wide. Not even a significant amount.

          And, as I pointed out, it's not aimed at the same market (subscription to a select group vs non-subscription to the general public).

          Nor does it limit itself to the subset that the ACS limits itself to. Again, no "trading on the value of the name,. etc"

          SciFinder "might" enjoy some protection, since it's not a generic word. "Scholar" does not. No more than General Motors can keep anyone else from using the word "Motor" in their product name.

          The ACS is pimping their service with this lawsuit - hope that Google wins with prejudice.

          • by ibbey (27873) *
            Unfortunately, I don't think you understand trademark law as well as you think. Considering that the service each company offers is effectively the same, the fact that their target markets are slightly different isn't enough to negate the trademark violation. If Lindows bore enough similarity to Microsoft Windows to be a violation, Google is almost certainly in the wrong here.

            How widely known a trademark is has absolutely zero bearing on it's enforcability. Google has a legal responsibility to vet the name
        • Interesting - I wonder if the fact that the SciFinder part is the more unique diminishes the importance of the Scholar part of the brand.

          Think about it - if you made a programming language called Rich0's Java, you'd probably get sued. On the other hand, if I made one called Rich0 2 Enterprise Edition it would probably be fine.
  • Next, Coca-Cola will sue Pepsi Cola over the use of the word Cola.
    • Next, Coca-Cola will sue Pepsi Cola over the use of the word Cola.

      They can't. They already did, and settled. Previous to that suit Coca-Cola made dozens of competing products either change their name or put them out of business.

      KFG
  • by kaedemichi255 (834073) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:12PM (#11062106)
    although i highly doubt they will win their side of the dispute, seems like a great publicity stunt for them and their pay-to-use service ;) plus, their service is only a subset of google's service, so really it is just a clash of appropriate titles. can't google just scratch the name "google scholar"?
  • Madness! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hak hak (640274) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:12PM (#11062112)
    This is absolute madness. Since when is the word "scholar" in any way reserved for the ACS? If you use a generic word in your product, don't be complain when others use the same word, otherwise you are just plain naive.

    The same could be said of a well-known operating system, of course...

  • by The Lost Supertone (754279) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:13PM (#11062113) Journal
    Dang I just need to get my profs to approve me using this for papers and I'm set!
  • by ejito (700826) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:14PM (#11062125)
    scholspire
  • apropraite name (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ssand (702570)
    Google Scholar gets the message out though, as Google Scholars allows you to find articles. With Scholarships, and scholars, its an apropriate name, and I can't see them winning against Google.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:15PM (#11062132)
    The article indicates the basis of the suit is that Google Scholar infringe upon SciFinder Scholar trademark. Granted that Google Scholar appears to do more or less what SciFinder Scholar do (minus the fee.)

    But I doubt anyone would confuse the word Google and SciFinder. If their entire suit hinge on the word Scholar, I think ACS is facing an uphill battle.
    • Maybe ... but given that courts seem to give idiots, deadbeats and outright criminal cartels a big win at least 30% of the time, they have decent odds of winning (justice notwithstanding.)
    • But I doubt anyone would confuse the word Google and SciFinder. If their entire suit hinge on the word Scholar, I think ACS is facing an uphill battle.

      I disagree. Google, like Microsoft, has been known to buy up companies and incorporate them into their core online service. A person who wanted to use the ACS Scholar service might see the Google service, and think, "great, I was going to pay for it but now Google bought it and is offering it for free". Now that probably won't happen too much, but it's
    • I doubt "Scholar" is generic. Literally, "scholar" means someone smart, etc. This is a database. The term is suggestive, which can develop secondary meaning. There is no shortage of terms, etc.
  • The Real Problem (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kmactane (18359) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:16PM (#11062134) Homepage

    The real problem here is that you can trademark a word in common use, like "scholar". Since the ACS did exactly that, roughly 6 years ago, they have no choice but to go after Google (or else have their own trademark claims painfully diluted, or maybe just nullified).

    I don't much like what's happening here, but if I were Google, I'd be strongly considering just changing the name of my service. (IANAL, but it really looks like Google will have an uphill battle here.)

    • You can do anything to any/everybody just as long as the alternatives are made less palatable tham what you offer.

      The use of language as a medium of inter personal communication is at the heart of this trade mark crap. Its not going to dissapear until we learn to do without language when creating trademarks.
    • by miu (626917)
      You can trademark a term in general use, or generic term, for your product - but if the product itself is naturally described by means of the trademarked term then you may lose certain exclusive rights protected by trademark. That is why MS does not have exclusive rights to "Office" or "Windows", those are natural terms applied to those products. 'Scholar' as a term for a search assistant is probably not generic enough when applied to this product - librarian probably would be though.

      If I had to guess I'd

      • 'Scholar' as a term for a search assistant is probably not generic enough when applied to this product - librarian probably would be though.

        Well, yes, but 'Google Scholar' isn't called that because it's a search assistant. The name derives from the fact that it is intended for use by scholars, and searches across scholarly journals, conferences, and other academic publications.

        • Sure the domain is scholarly, but the action involves organization and search. The court might wind up viewing the subject matter as more important than the actual function of the product, who knows - but my instinct says that 'scholar' is not a generic term for a product like this.
          • but my instinct says that 'scholar' is not a generic term for a product like this.

            There's no requirement for the term to be descriptive of the function of the product for it to be in generic use. "Business Class" seating on airplanes describes larger-than-coach-but-smaller-than-1st-class seats and it draws its name from the specific customer it's aimed at: businessmen. Google Scholar likewise draws its name from its intended user: scholars.

    • Didn't this happen to Microsoft? They tried to copyright/trademark "Windows" and were denied because it was a generic word. It didn't stop them from registering "Microsoft Windows" though.

      So, couldn't Google get around it by calling it "Google Scholar"?
    • if I were Google, I'd be strongly considering just changing the name of my service.

      and if I were Google, I'd put my "don't be evil" motto and my billions of dollars to work by defending my use of a generic word. Microsoft was so afraid of "Windows" being ruled generic that they paid-off Lindows $20mil to go away. Google would be being "evil" (for their shareholders) if they likewise bowed down.

    • "

      The field of scientific research and related services is, of course, open to all," said Flint Lewis, ACS's secretary and general counsel, in a statement. "But when someone uses a trademark similar to ours, we have no choice but to take action--to protect the goodwill that we have built over the years and to prevent the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace."

      No, it's not. Increasingly, high quality journals and research articles are kept hidden away from the general public by restrictive copyrights,

    • ACS's product is "SciFinder Scholar". Had Google called their's "Google SciFinder", ACS would have grounds for complaint - this is just a nuisance lawsuit.
  • I smell (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:20PM (#11062159)
    Doesn't this also seem like nothing more than a poor excuse for advertising the Google Scholar beta?
  • by pleumann (219030) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:22PM (#11062180)
    ...but that SciFinder thing sounds more like a search engine for Star Trek episodes.

    • This is the first time I've seen Google Scholar. After a few minutes playing around, it seems the search engine gives the author's name much higher precidence in returning results than anything else. Thus, I had to search for "warp drive" [google.com] before I could make the keywords match an article's title or content.

      (And believe you me, I never expected there to be so much serious research on warp theory out there. I need to try "holodeck" next.)
  • by bigbigbison (104532) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:22PM (#11062186) Homepage
    So does this mean that only chemists can call themselves scholars? Damn, I guess I HAVE been wasting my life...
  • Give it back you word thief!
    • by SEE (7681) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:38PM (#11062309) Homepage
      I'm sorry, Word Thief® is a registered trademark of the American Plagarists Guild. Unauthorized use is, in an acknowledged irony, forbidden.

      If you wish to avoid lawsuits, you may join the Guild. Just send us a photocopied Newspaper Guild/Communications Workers of America membership form with a check made out to cash. (We couldn't be bothered to come up with our own form, and over 90% of our members have professional access to the NG/CWA form anyway . . . )
  • Whenever I see a story like this I feel this unquenchable compulsion to imagine the most absurd extension of the legal quarrel.

    So, to that end, I've trademarked the intake of breath that one makes before speaking, and therefore all verbal communication is in violation that contains such a sound.
  • From the ACS lawyer: ..."But when someone uses a trademark similar to ours, we have no choice but to take action--to protect the goodwill that we have built over the years and to prevent the likelihood of confusion in the marketplace."

    Sounds like this lawyer is spouting his basic litigation script and is getting ready to go to trial.

    These guys have been doing this stuff for six years and I'm sure almost nobody here has heard of them. I doubt seriously there will be any "confusion" in the marketplace o
  • ACS Journals (Score:3, Interesting)

    by The Ape With No Name (213531) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:25PM (#11062216) Homepage
    A subscription to one of their journals is OUTRAGEOUS. Our library has over 50 grand a year set aside for ACS journals. A chemist friend joked with me saying that some of the titles never even get read while in the periodical room.
  • Dear Google, (Score:2, Insightful)

    by modpoints (838575)
    Please remove the "mail" part of the product name "Gmail", as it infringes on half of our product's name. Thanks, The Hotmail Staff
  • Scientific citations are big business with players deep in the trenches. Thomsonisi [thomsonisi.com] sells the citation indexes, I believe (and endnote). ACS controls vast citation and manuscript papers. I hope Google is able to open up the field a bit, but it is going to take some court battles, I'm sure.
    • Several months ago there was a mini-scientific scandal when it was discovered that the former director of the American Chemical Society had been making $750,000/year and had a private chauffeur and limo, paid of course from ACS funds, which a large part derive from journal subscription fees and fees for things like like their 'scholar' service. If free services Google can take over the citation business from ACS and ISI, and the Public Library of Science can take over journal publishing, then I won't weep t
  • Open Letter to ACS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by dhart (1261) * <dhartNO@SPAMsftower.com> on Saturday December 11, 2004 @05:38PM (#11062308)
    Dear ACS,

    Shame on you and your lawsuit against Google!

    I know your type -- you've found a nice little money-maker with SciFinder, and you don't want to lose it, even at the expense of stifling the free and unencumbered flow of scientific information.

    I think you should know, you'll anger many of your intended 'grassroots' with this move, which is, in my opinion, unethical.

    I'm a chemist, and I sincerely hope that the ACS either mends its ways, or is squarely put in its place by Google and tide of changing times!

    Sincerely,

    David Hart
  • Probably simpler for Google to change the name of its service to "Google Geek". A good way to avoid a prolonged legal confrontation and potential settlement costs.

    And the oh! so desirable side-effect of going a long way towards mainstreaming geekdom - maybe more slashdot readers will get lucky then.

    Get in touch with your inner geek.

  • As a scientist, I think that this is a really cool. I have been wondering how long it would take Google to come out witih something like this. The current searching provided by the NCBI via PubMed is woefully inadequate. Scholar not only finds the relevant papers, it also tells you how many citations each has, which is very important when deciding the impact of a paper.

    However, Scholar does highlight the problem with much of the Scientific literature. If you do a search, and find a paper of inter
    • Indeed. This went immediately into my favorites list. Kudos to Google on this. As to the name collison, "A rose by any other name..." lists the same references.

      Excellent stuff. On a quick test, it's complete enough to bring up some rather obscure papers from the 60s in several different fields.
  • ... will have to pay royalties on their scholarships if ACS wins?!
  • by raider_red (156642) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @06:18PM (#11062551) Journal
    Dear American Chemical Society:

    This letter is an instruction to cease and desist immediately in the following activities: 1st, your use of the word society. We at the Language Nazi Society have copyrighted the use of the term "Society" and will not tolerate the dillution of our trademarks by your use of this term. 2nd, your use of the term Chemical. As we have trademarked the entire dictionary, any other words you use can only be interpreted as an infringement on our rights. 3rd, the practice of writing letters as this also infringes on our dictionary tradmarks...
  • Google's use of the trademark "Scholar"

    I thought you couldn't trademark common words (e.g. "Windows"). Microsoft needed many attempts and lots of money, and it's still basically "Microsoft Windows", "Microsoft Word", and let's not mention "Excel", which they didn't seem to trademark at all until it was a little late.

    So how do these people claim to own "Scholar"?

  • Let's search for something interesting.

    Something scientific and peer-reviewed.

    Something solid and respected.

    Something true and verified.

    Something, dare I say it: Scholarly

    How about: "ufo unidentified"

  • SciFinder (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bester (27412) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @06:56PM (#11062781)
    As a user of SciFinder Scholar I really don't think that ACS should be trying to draw a comparison between their product and google's scholar.

    SciFinder is terrible. The UI is non-consistent with the standard windows suite, cf to google's wonderful UI. SciFinder is also ugly as a dog (a pug at that).
    It's slow as a dog, cf to google's speed.
    Tell it to save to results and all you get is unprintable ascii characters.
    Performing a search is painful task with poor boolean support.

    On the whole scifinder is poor product that I hope is supersceded with google's scholar.

    --
    A Commentary on 'The Hare and the Tortise' In reality the hare would have beaten the pants off the tortise in a race, rarely does slow and steady win the race. Instead it is the fast hare capable of the leaps and bounds of modern thinking that will win the race. This fable is told to encourage fat stupid children.
  • by jeif1k (809151) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @07:46PM (#11063046)
    I wish people would get over this notion that something like this is a "subscription vs. free", implying that Google is doing charitable work. Whether their service is advertising supported or a loss leader, they are maximizing return on investment for their stock holders. Google Scholar may be "free", just like your Yellow Pages may be free, but it's still a product. And Google will go aggressively after people who may be violating their trademarks.

    However, in this particular case, I think the dispute is silly just because of the names: "SciFinder Scholar" and "Google Scholar" are not confusingly similar.
  • by kencurry (471519) on Saturday December 11, 2004 @07:53PM (#11063077)
    I'm a dues paying ACS member, have been for 10 years. I have never once used Scifinder scholar, I have found the ACS literature searching to "suck" and I avoid using their site. "pubmed" is much better.

    The main problem with any of these is that you can find abstracts, but generally have to pay $25 dollars for the PDF. What bugs me about that is much of the research is publically funded, why should the general public have to pay for the paper when we funded the research?
  • by Drathmere (839452)
    1) Have slow unpredictable search tool that has sold in the measly 1000s over 6 years. (166 copies per year)

    2) Fire staff of magazine due to slow advertising sales.

    3) Give prefered treatment to companies that advertise in the employment issue.

    4) Pay the president upwards of 600k.

    5) Sue Google.

    6) post on slashdot...whoops

    The sad thing is that this association is supposted to support chemists. The stupidity of this move is mind blowing.

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