Why You Can’t Google on Google (and Other Trademark Lessons)

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A basic principle of trademark law is that no one business can claim exclusive rights to use a generic term in its industry. Starbucks could not claim trademark rights in “coffee cup,” for example, because all cafes need to be able to call a coffee cup a coffee cup. On the other hand, a marketing agency could seek to protect the trademark “Coffee Cup Marketing” (assuming one hasn’t already), because in the context of marketing services the term “coffee cup” is arbitrary, not generic.

An important, related principle of trademark law is that one company’s trademark can become generic if it is not properly protected. Famous examples of former trademarks include the terms aspirin and elevator.

Now, one man is claiming that Google, Inc. has lost exclusive rights in its ubiquitous namesake trademark. In a recent lawsuit, the man alleges that “Google” has become a generic verb for conducting an online search. While he may have a point…to a point, I wouldn’t go buying www.newgoogle.com just yet. Continue reading: Why You Can’t Google on Google (and Other Trademark Lessons).

Jeff Fabian assists business owners in minimizing risk and protecting their intellectual property assets so that they can stay focused on running their businesses. Visit www.fabianip.com for more information, and follow Jeff on Twitter @FabianOnIP.

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