Google vs. google: Stop the insanity! 2006/08/15
Finally, some sense in the madness of all these google as a verb legality stories - thank you Scoble!
Here’s the deal - despite what you may have read “google” as a verb didn’t just show up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary - and neither did all those write-ups in the press about it becoming ubiquitous.
Google’s PR department engineered this - on purpose - and, yes, it’s good for the brand - of course it is.
Also, contrary to most of the stories on this - Kleenex, Jacuzzi, Coke - they all actively worked on the same thing - in fact, as a brand marketer, one of the very best things you can do is to get your brand name to become synonymous with the product you’re selling. That’s one of the basics!
If you’ve been reading the mainstream media’s take on this story, you’ve probably been hearing the opposite of this - but the fact is that all of the companies they cite benefit from super-brand recognition - and all continue to thrive basically for that reason. Whatever market share they may have lost over the years was just plain, fair competition. It’s tough out there, even for super-brands.
Now that we’ve got that straight, why the letters?
Well, Scoble’s right, lawyers have a different set of rules to contend with than do brand marketers and the rest of us.
If Google can’t show that they’ve actively protected their trademarks, there’s a chance they could lose the right to prevent people from actually stealing their name and slapping it on competitive products or crappy unlicensed merchandise - like my Google Spice Rack.
This applies to all intellectual property - the basic idea is to place the responsibility of protection in the hands of the trademark or patent holder, rather than with the government or law enforcement. The laws are also designed to prevent frivolous or gold-digging lawsuits against established companies, or overly selective damage claims.
This sort of thing actually comes up all the time in software - when smaller companies will attempt (often successfully) to sue Microsoft or Apple for infringement damages, long after the product in question has been on the market. As the plaintiff, the longer you can wait, the higher the damages will be, since they will be based on the total revenue from infringing product sold. To curb this kind of extortion, the law insists that you make proper warnings in a timely fashion, and not allow companies to unknowingly infringe without contest. If you fail to do this, your case can be thrown out.
But remember, it was Google PR that stirred up this “google as a verb” thing in the first place - they want to keep that going. So, like Scoble says, in this case, Google just needs the appearance of active protection - the letters are just letters…
So, by all means, continue to google - go ahead and google google in the dictionary right now - google it from Yahoo! if you want.