Recurring Decimals…..

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Google: A Patented Verb

with 3 comments

Via Slashdot (and now also on Boing Boing), comes the story of Google Inc, legally trying to prevent media organizations from using ‘google’ as a verb.

Search engine giant Google, known for its mantra “don’t be evil”, has fired off a series of legal letters to media organisations, warning them against using its name as a verb.

In June, Google won a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, while “to google”, with a lower case “g”, was included last month in Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, America’s leading reference book.

We don’t need a dictionary to tell us – for the last three-four years most regular internet users have been using the word ‘google’ interchangibly with ‘searching the net’. Also, unlike the rather alarming tone of the article, I doubt if this legal notice goes against their “don’t be evil” motto. They are simply making sure that competing search engines don’t take advantage of ‘google’ becoming a generic term and therefore using it on their sites (this is probably even more cruical to Google as it enters the business of entertainment). As a commenter on Slashdot menitons:

What I speculate Google is worried about is that the verb “googled” becomes generic for search as in “I googled it.” And the law says you can’t trademark something that is generically used. Essentially, if a case occurred with a rival search engine putting “Just google it!” at the top of their page and the court said they could do that because ‘google’ is a generic term, then you would have precedent for millions of Google imposters seeking to make money off the Google name (since it just means search to the general public).

Sounds like a victim of their own success !  Of course, the most ubiquitous brand-product synonimity is Xerox and photocopying.


Written by BongoP'o'ndit

August 15, 2006 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Fun, Geeky, Trivia

3 Responses

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  1. yes…and when this happens it kills the brand. no wonder Google is scared.
    an Indian example would be “Fryums” (a product of TTK). the success of this product led to the product category itself being called “fryums”…pretty much killing the original brand.


    August 19, 2006 at 2:08 pm

  2. aqua: True – actually in the days before liberalization in India, with the limited number of consumer goods, there were many such brand generalizations: Boroline as the generic antiseptic cream, Maggi as a generic instant noodle etc


    August 19, 2006 at 7:29 pm

  3. Fascinating!

    Some other examples of a brand name being used as a generic object are Band-Aid (it’s actually a “bandage”), Coke is used as any kind of fizzy drink in some countries, Jello (it’s gelatin)…


    June 26, 2008 at 6:25 pm

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