Aug 21, 2017

Could Google Lose Its Trade Mark?

An interesting case is currently before the US Supreme Court concerning the question of whether the term 'google' is now so generic that it is not capable of trade mark protection.

The purpose of a trade mark is to distinguish the goods or services of one entity from those of another in the eyes of the public. If a trade mark becomes so well known that it becomes generic for the goods or services in question it is then liable to lose its protection as it would no longer be distinguishing for the goods or services. This concept is known as 'genericide' and it has previously happened to famous brands in the past including hoover and aspirin.

It is a claim for genericide that Google is currently facing in the US Supreme Court.

This dispute originated when a man named Chris Gillespie registered a number of domain names combing the word 'google' with other words or phrases. Google challenged these registrations and was successful, resulting in an order that the domains be forfeited. Following that decision Mr Gillespie has sued Google to seek to have the trade mark declared invalid. This is on the basis that 'google' is now synonymous with 'search the internet' in the eyes of the general public and so is now longer capable of distinguishing the services of Google's own search engine.

Mr Gillespie was unsuccessful at first instance where the court found that the term 'google' had not become generic, with one reason being that Google is not just a search engine. Mr Gillespie has appealed this decision to the US Supreme Court who must now decide whether they are going to review the decision of the lower court.

It will be interesting to see whether the Supreme Court agrees to review this case, as on the face of it there would seem to be some traction to Mr Gillespie's argument that the term 'google' has become generic, at least in respect of internet search engines. Whether or not the 'google' trade mark does go the way of those of hoover, aspirin etc, it is unlikely to impact too much on its business given its dominant position in the market.

in: News, Trade Marks

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