Since the days of Napster there have been stories about copyright infringement on the internet. Reports of piracy, torrents, using images and photographs without permission are commonplace. Trademark news is less so, but an Arizona man has decided to battle Google over the rights to their name.
Jeff John Roberts over at paidContent reports that David Elliot is looking for a court to decide that “google” has become a generic word for “search on the internet.” Elliot isn’t fighting the good fight against a large corporation for the right to use an invented word for the greater good, but to overturn a court decision he lost concerning a number of domain names including “googlegaycruises.com” and “googledonaldtrump.com.” The full complaint is available here.
Trademarks, unlike copyrights and patents, do not have an expiration date. A number of trademarks have become generic words over time: escalator, thermos, and aspirin are popular examples of products whose names were once tied to their originating companies. A trademark that is distinctive can become generic if it does not solely relate to the products produced by the trademark owner. Once other moving staircases were created, customers referred to all of them as escalators rather than only those made by Otis Elevator Company. The power of a trademark is in the minds of customers.
Once other moving staircases were created customers referred to all of them as escalators rather than only those made by Otis Elevator Company.
To win his case, Elliot would need to show that when people say the word “google” they mean to look something up in a search engine, whether that is Google, Bing, Blekko, or DuckDuckGo. If people “google” at the website known for a white background and unique celebrations in the images above its search box, Elliot will have a tough time proving that Google is a generic term.