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Supreme Court Asked To Nullify the Google Trademark (arstechnica.com) 196

Is the term "google" too generic and therefore unworthy of its trademark protection? That's the question before the US Supreme Court. From a report: What's before the Supreme Court is a trademark lawsuit that Google already defeated in a lower court. The lawsuit claims that Google should no longer be trademarked because the word "google" is synonymous to the public with the term "search the Internet." "There is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine," according to the petition to the Supreme Court. It's perhaps one of the most consequential trademark case before the justices since they ruled in June that offensive trademarks must be allowed. The Google trademark dispute dates to 2012 when a man named Chris Gillespie registered 763 domain names that combined "google" with other words and phrase, including "googledonaldtrump.com."
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Supreme Court Asked To Nullify the Google Trademark

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  • bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:25PM (#55057757)

    to google means to search on google.
    I don't know what kind of morons this guy talks to, but I never hear people say google when they mean bing, or yahoo or whatever.
    The verb for those is "search".

    • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Funny)

      by Archangel Michael ( 180766 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:29PM (#55057781) Journal

      Bing
      Is
      Not
      Google

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        What is this "Bing" that you speak of? I'm pretty sure no one on the Interwebs has ever heard of it. :P
        • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Informative)

          by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:47PM (#55057903)

          Isn't that that great porn search engine, where it will offer raunchier and raunchier suggestions as you keep clicking through them?

          I'm asking for a friend...

        • Do they still have their Trademark?

          Because that's pretty much synonymous with every snotrag now.

          • [dadjoke] Let me google that for you [google.com] [/dadjoke]
          • by HiThere ( 15173 )

            They won the case, but they had to defend it in court. I think, however, it only got up to the appellate level (i.e., not even circuit court). But it was a hard fight. After then they started marking all their boxes "Kleenex facial tissue", and for all I know supporting Scott's with *their* "Scotties facial tissue".

          • by jabuzz ( 182671 )

            Only in the USA I think you will find. For example if you asked for a Kleenex in the UK someone would mostly like attempt to get you a genuine Kleenex tissue rather than some generic brand, as everyone calls them tissues.

            Similarly if you ask for Scotch tape, most people in the UK would call it either sticky tape or Sellotape (which means all you America's missed the in joke in Harry Potter with the Spellotape).

            I could go on, but in general I think using brand names to refer generically to products is a very

        • I saw Bing once. Somewhere
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by gstewart ( 453924 )

      It is bullshit, but the reason is because the verb "google" was derived from the trademarked search engine called Google that was the most popular (and functional) of all search engines back in the early 2000's.

      And, I know far too many people who use the blanket verb "google" regardless of the engine they use to do it with.

    • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:31PM (#55057791)

      to google means to search on google.

      Indeed. I have never heard anyone say "Google it with Bing" except as a joke.

      Nitpick: TFA claims that the trademark for "aspirin" was lost through generic use. This is wrong. Bayer was forced to abandon the trademark because Germany lost the First World War. Bayer also lost the trademark to "Heroin".

      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Funny)

        by EvilSS ( 557649 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:54PM (#55057961)

        Bayer also lost the trademark to "Heroin".

        Well that turned out to be short sighted. The war on heroin would be over today if Bayer could go after street dealers for trademark infringement!

      • Re:bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

        by vux984 ( 928602 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @02:39PM (#55058215)

        Indeed. I have never heard anyone say "Google it with Bing" except as a joke.

        Practically nobody says "can you pass me a kleenex from that box of puffs facial tissues" unless they are making a joke too. They just say 'pass me a kleenex'. But they'll point at the puffs box while asking without awareness or irony.

        Likewise people do say 'just google X' all the time as a generic synonym for "search for it on the internet". And they'll open their browser and use the default search without any real awareness that its actually yahoo or bing.

        I don't know that its sufficiently generic for loss of trademark. But lets not kid ourselves here, I will say 'google something' yet I use duckduckgo on all the systems at home. The word 'search' doesn't automatically mean 'on the internet' ... if i say 'can you search for my drill' it's not immediately obvious that I want an internet search (e.g. for its specs / support / accessories / current price ), as opposed to finding my actual drill in the garage. And if I say 'google my drill' it means find a product page for my drill on the internet. And I don't care, or even intend for anyone to actually use google to do it.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Practically nobody says "can you pass me a kleenex from that box of puffs facial tissues" unless they are making a joke too. They just say 'pass me a kleenex'. But they'll point at the puffs box while asking without awareness or irony.

          I think that's the test, if you ask someone to xerox something and they give you a non-xerox photocopy do you care? No. Same with kleenex. But if you order coke and get anything other than Coca-Cola you're probably talking to your dealer. If you talk to one of those personal assistant thingies and say "google X" I don't think you'd expect to get results from Bing. Sure as a suggestion you might say "google X" to mean "search the Internet for X using Google or whatever search engine you like best" but as a c

          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            but as a command or request I'd say you expect results from Google and nobody else

            I disagree.

            If my son says, "Dad, when did the T. Rex go extinct" I might say "google it". And I don't have any expectation that he'll specifically use google to get the answer; and in fact, because his default search engine is duckduckgo, I would expect him to use that.

            But I'd never say 'duckduckgo it'. Because that's not a common thing to say...where as 'google it' has become a common thing to say.

            Your example was a bit weird because you weren't looking for a final page... you were specifically asking for

            • Then why don't you say "look it up"?

              • by vux984 ( 928602 )

                Then why don't you say "look it up"?

                Do you also harass people who ask for kleenex? After all they could ask for a 'facial tissue' instead. If they ask for saurkraut to do you ask them why they don't say "pickled cabbage"? If they want flapjacks to you tell them to say "pancakes"? If they want a cup of joe do you insist they say coffee?

                Why don't I say "look it up"? Because. That's why. The language is rich and full of options.When I say "google it" people know I've suggested they look 'it' up online. It's well understood. I *could* say it lots

                • When I say "google it" people know I've suggested they look 'it' up online. It's well understood. I *could* say it lots of other ways... why should I?

                  No... When you say "Google it" people only will know that you suggested to ... well.. Google it,

                  Which by definition [merriam-webster.com] means "to use Google"

                  When someone asks you for a kleenex, would you hand them a glass of water? NO! Because, you know, words have meanings.

                  Yes, there may be some ambiguity, but that's why we can use dictionaries and such stuff to make sure everyone means the same.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

          It's interesting that no-one else puts "kleenex" on their boxes of tissue paper though. Aside from not wanting to waste money on the inevitable lawsuit, I have a feeling that consumers would start returning their products when they realize what the deception is, costing them money.

          Assuming Google lost its trademark on search products, I wonder if other companies would start using the term "google" in relation to their search engines. Seems like a rather shady thing to do, with no non-malicious motivations b

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Nitpick: TFA claims that the trademark for "aspirin" was lost through generic use. This is wrong. Bayer was forced to abandon the trademark because Germany lost the First World War. Bayer also lost the trademark to "Heroin".

        Judge Learned Hand, in Bayer v. United Drug Co, actually noted the "genericization" of "aspirin" began before the First World War, so no, you're wrong. Go read the opinion.

      • IIRC there was a generic-use attempt against Kodak that failed in the courts.

      • Actual conversation I had with someone:

        Them: Can you google (product name) to see how much it is?
        Me: *types product into search bar and presses enter*
        Them: No, I mean google it on Amazon
      • Bayer has lost the trademark for Aspirin? Maybe in the US, but where I live, the trademark seems very much alive.
        • by Gonoff ( 88518 )

          In the UK, "asprin" is pretty generic. Various pharmacy and supermarket chains sell their own brand. I don;t think anyone thinks there is any difference between any of them but they all come in their own branded boxes.

          • But outside the USA, generic brands have to use the term "acetylsalicylic acid" because Bayer owns the name ASPIRIN®.

            • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

              But outside the USA, generic brands have to use the term "acetylsalicylic acid" because Bayer owns the name ASPIRIN®.

              No. Aspirin is considered generic in the UK, and lots of other places.

    • To quote Scott Hanselmann: "Quickly googling with Bing ..."

    • Except occasionally online, whenever I hear someone talking about searching on the internet, they say "google" regardless of whether they're actually using google or not.

      Even I do it: I use DuckDuckGo, but when I'm talking about searching for something I'll say I'm "googling" it.

      But none of this automatically means that Google should lose the trademark. There are places in the US that call all sodas "coke" even when they're not even colas, but Coke hasn't lost its trademark.

      • My thinking is Google has a weak trademark. The guy who registered "googledonaldtrump.com" appears to have a verb in his domain name, not a claim that he's THE Google. I don't think you should be allowed to represent yourself as Google or use the name to brand your own product in their space; using the term to represent an idea, though, is fine.

        It's the kind of thing you know when you see, which is why we have legal reasonable persons.

  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:28PM (#55057771)
    Like many questions asked on slashdot, the answer should be "No". See Kleenex(TM), Xerox(TM), Band-Aid(TM), etc.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      See Kleenex(TM), Xerox(TM), Band-Aid(TM), etc.

      Why so? There are plenty of genericized trademarks, like Thermos, or Dumpster.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericized_trademarks

      But did you know that "Realtor" has not been genericized yet?

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        See Kleenex(TM), Xerox(TM), Band-Aid(TM), etc.

        Why so? There are plenty of genericized trademarks, like Thermos, or Dumpster.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_generic_and_genericized_trademarks

        Genericised trademarks still do not allow you to release a similar product with a similar sounding brand name. I.E. you cant market a box of tissues as "Cleaneckses" because it's too similar to "Kleenex".

        Google may have become a generic term for search, but that doesn't mean they aren't permitted to defend their trademark from anyone attempting to co-opt it.

        Besides this, the article mentioned that a less than scrupulous sounding person purchased in excess of 750 domain names featuring the word "google

  • by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:31PM (#55057795)
    Chris Gillespie sued and lost so he appealed to the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS), which is his right. However, the justices have not yet ruled on whether they'll even hear his appeal. My guess is they won't hear it and will let the previous ruling (against Gillespie) stand. I do know that one of the ways you can lose a trademark is not to defend it and nobody can accuse Google of doing this.
    • Since it is recently filed, I can't find any amicus briefs. Usually many amicus briefs would generally mean SCOTUS is likely to hear the case
  • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:33PM (#55057809)
    Yeah, this would be a great idea. Let's punish a company for being TOO successful in what they do by taking away their trademark protection. Sheesh,
    • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

      Wouldn't this set a precedent of saying there should be no trademarks at all?

      Or you can only trademark a product if you have competition and you provide less than 50% of that product to consumers, because as soon as you become the provider of more than 50% to the markets, your trademark has become the most commonly used name for the product.

      It all sounds like a ridiculous joke, except somebody obviously has the time and funding to put into trying to degrade the value of Google's trademark. Who is providing

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @01:57PM (#55057985)

    The privacy-preserving search engine, DuckDuckGoogle.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @02:06PM (#55058029) Journal

    Google - by itself, as a word - implies nothing about internet search.
    Ostensibly, it's a number ( in fact it's a homonym of googol, coined to mean 10^100).

    If the summary is correct, essentially they're arguing that Google's market success means they lose their trademark ala generification like kleenex, xerox, etc. But it doesn't make any sense at all to assert "There is no single word other than google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine" without intrinsically crediting the entity Google with the credit for it meaning that.

    It seems like a pretty arbitrary taking to simply de-list their owned trademark by government fiat, PARTICULARLY when it's not like they're abusing it.

    • Ostensibly, it's a number ( in fact it's a homonym of googol, coined to mean 10^100)

      Actually it's a mispelling of the word "googol" (http://graphics.stanford.edu/~dk/google_name_origin.html).

    • Even though it is a derivative of googol, mention of the name Google will often get the Barney Google theme stuck in my head.

      Something to the effect of, o/~ Barney Google, with the goo goo googly eyes o/~

      I'll have to do a DuckDuckGo search if I want to make sure I got it correct; if I can be arsed to do so.

    • If the summary is correct, essentially they're arguing that Google's market success means

      ...nothing. This has nothing to do with Google's market success. It has to do with the extent to which "to google something" has entered the public consciousness. It's perfectly possible to fail to make much headway in the market, and yet have your name become a byword for something, it's just less likely.

  • Dan Parisi Defense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by t0qer ( 230538 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @02:11PM (#55058051) Homepage Journal

    We used to love Dan Pirisi here on slashdot. The guy made a habit out of registering things he didn't like with "Sucks" at the end of it.

    http://www.salon.com/2001/06/2... [salon.com]

    His case was hard fought and he won with the defense of registering a domain name with "sucks" in it is a criticism of the companies being featured. Good story from the early days of slashdot/the internet.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @02:25PM (#55058139) Homepage Journal

    So should Coca-cola Company lose their trademark because a bunch of Georgians erroneously call all soft drinks "coke" ?

    Sure, sometimes trademarks become genericized [wikipedia.org]. And sometimes the trademark is lost, and other times the courts decide that the trademarks are still valid. Usually the newer the trademark the less likely it is to be lost, probably because modern courts are corporation-friendly.

    • While we're actually on the same side, I disagree with your logic:

      Coke isn't trademarked. Cola isn't trademarked. COCA-COLA is.

      So your argument isn't directly applicable to the discussion without some additional link from "part of a word" == "whole word." Nobody is arguing Microsoft owns "micro" or "soft." Then again, Microsoft HAS argued Lindows infringed on the Windows trademark.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by OrangeTide ( 124937 )

        You only had to take a look at a can of "Diet Coke" or the wikipedia link I originally included to realize what you are saying is completely wrong.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        While we're actually on the same side, I disagree with your logic:

        Coke isn't trademarked. Cola isn't trademarked. COCA-COLA is.

        So your argument isn't directly applicable to the discussion without some additional link from "part of a word" == "whole word." Nobody is arguing Microsoft owns "micro" or "soft." Then again, Microsoft HAS argued Lindows infringed on the Windows trademark.

        Sigh, being pedantic only makes you look silly. We all knew what he meant.

        He was trying to say that just because a trademark becomes generic does not make it indefensible. Sure Coke (or Coca-Cola(TM) or whatever, annoying Grammar nazi's; and pendants pleases me mightily) can't stop their trademark being used in film, media or general conversation because it's generic, but if someone tried to produce a carbonated beverage called Coke (not Coca-Cola(TM)) or even Coak, then sure as hell they can sue them in

    • So should Coca-cola Company lose their trademark because a bunch of Georgians erroneously call all soft drinks "coke" ?

      Hey! We do the same thing in Florida.

      El Cubano: (walks into a restaurant and gets a table)
      Waiter/waitress: What can I get you to drink?
      El Cubano: Coke, please.
      Waiter/waitress: What kind of coke would you like?
      El Cubano: Ginger ale, please.
      Waiter/waitress: OK, I'll be right back with that.

      Here is what it is like in New York:

      El Cubano: (walks into a restaurant and gets a table)
      Waiter/waitress: What can I get you to drink?
      El Cubano: Coke, please.
      Waiter/waitress: OK, I'll be right back with that.
      El C

      • Sorry but...

        El Cubano: (walks into a restaurant and gets a table)
        Waiter/waitress: What can I get you to drink?
        El Cubano: Coke, please.
        Waiter/waitress: OK, I'll be right back with that.
        El Cubano: (thinks to self, but he/she didn't ask what kind of coke I wanted)

        Bickerdyke: Wondering why El Cubano didn't tell the waitress right away what he wanted to drink.

        So if, even if, anywhere in the world "Coke" would be generic for any soft drink - NO ONE would just order a "Soft Drink" in the same way you can't just order "juice" or "ice cream" or "something to eat" "A beer" is the only exception, as that would usually give you the (one) beer they have on tap.

  • Alphabet (Score:5, Funny)

    by dottrap ( 1897528 ) on Monday August 21, 2017 @02:35PM (#55058189)

    Good thing they changed their name to Alphabet. They'll never have any problems with that.

  • Supreme Court has been asked nothing... this is an appeal from a lost lawsuit to higher court. And it'll probably not be taken, let alone pass.
    Either way, it's Google's win. If they win, they keep the trademark and the term doesn't become generic. If it becomes generic though, it only works as marketing material for them with the term being cemented as searching for content on the Internet.

  • As a web service, the trademark also enjoys near perfect inherent trademark in protection. Imagne it being otherwise: You go to Sears "to buy something on Amazon." It would be simple idiocy to think this.

    If you go to google.com, you get either get Google or you are having a bad problem and you will not go to internet today.

  • Google the new Frigidair?

  • The Supreme Court hasn't granted cert, so the case might not even be heard. This is along the lines of "any idiot can file a lawsuit".

    If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, then it will be interesting. In agreeing to hear the case, there is a presumption---no matter how slight---that they may overturn the appellate ruling.

    Until the Supreme Court grants/denies cert, this is just background noise.

  • If one can trademark 'Best Buy', anything goes.
  • "Google" should not have trademark protection when it is used to refer to the NUMBER. Otherwise, when referring to an internet search, it absolutely is a trademark. And I say this as someone generally opposed to our corporate overlords. This argument is weak, and simply encouraging the further dilution of language.

  • Not that I've ever used the verb "Google" for any other search engine, but:

    How many of you Hoover or Lux your floor with an actual Hoover or Electrolux vacuum cleaner?

  • When a company's trademark becomes the generic term for whatever it is. Xerox, Dumpster, Realtor, Pam, PC (sorta), Band-Aid, and now trademarks like Google and iPad are generic trademarks, and they are all protected.

    This Gillespie guy is wasting money like crazy. The Court is likely to decline hearing his case, and that is to his benefit. He's just throwing good money after bad in a doomed quest to do the absurd.

    Not that there aren't other reasons he should not be allowed to register domains with th

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