Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Supreme Court Refuses to Nullify Google Trademark

On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review a legal challenge that the term "google" has become too generic and therefore should not be protected by trademark. The lawsuit was brought by Chris Gillespie who had registered 763 domain names that included the word "google." Google Inc. filed a cybersquatting complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and claimed trademark infringement. Mr. Gillespie lost and was ordered to forfeit the domains. He appealed but lost on all court levels.

His lawsuit alleged that the word "google" had become synonymous with the term "search the Internet."  When words become too generic, companies that hold trademark rights to them lose those rights. This phenomenon is  known as "genericide." Words like teleprompter, thermos, hoover, aspirin, and videotape were once trademarked but lost the legal trademark status after they became too generic.

That's why Velcro last month came up with a video urging consumers to stop calling the stuff "velcro" unless it is officially a product of the Velcro Companies. They, too, are worried they'll fall victims to genericide and lose their Velcro trademark.

But for now Google will keep its trademark because the courts determined that, even though the dictionaries started including the verb "google," it has not yet become an exclusive term for "search the Internet." The appeals panel said trademark loss to genericide occurs when the name has become an "exclusive descriptor" that makes it difficult for competitors to compete unless they use that name. For now, people understand that "to google" only applies if they are searching the Internet using the actual Google and competitors can compete without having to use the word "google."