Google and Genericization

free essayRapid development of communication technologies and media has resulted in the increased popularity of advertising, with numerous products being promoted via a wide array of channels. As a result, their names become so common that people begin using them in their everyday speech. In this regard, it is possible to speak of the brand name becoming generic, i.e. being used to describe the entire class of products or services instead of a particular one. On the one hand, it can be considered an act of enrichment of a certain language. However, this process may also have severe consequences for the owner of a trademark, which means that the presented issue cannot be viewed unambiguously.

As it has been mentioned before, the genericization involves the trademark becoming associated with a wide range of products. In the case of Google Inc., the name of its primary product, i.e. Google Search, has been turned into a verb to google, which is often applied to any procedure of web search, no matter what tools and online search engines are used in the course of this process. Such transitions occur due to various reasons, with the three of them being the most common ones. They include the appearance of the brand associated with a type of product that never existed before, the absence of comparable competitors for a long period of time, and the absence of simple word that describes products or services offered under a particular trademark (Friedmann 35). The case of Google Inc. resembles the second option, which is supported by the company’s share in the market of online search engines. In particular, only in the U.S., it exceeds 65% (Lopez-Tarruella 21). Thus, it is of little surprise that its trademark is being used as a verb, which contributes to the risk of it becoming generic.

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Under such conditions, Google Inc. may take several measures to prevent the genericization of its brand name, enforcing the proprietary rights that identify it as its exclusive owner. The first of them, which can be considered as less radical, is the educational or public relations campaign. In particular, the organization can create and distribute guides and ads that educate people on the ways of its appropriate use (Friedmann 154). These may be provided in a digital form and in a way that makes them easily accessible, for example, on the main page of Google Search. Such measure may help encourage the users, i.e. the category of people that is directly responsible for turning the trademark into a verb, to use the term in a proper way, e.g. in the way it refers to the products provided by the company rather than the process of search as a whole. It should be pointed out that Google Inc. has resorted to a similar approach in 2006, by cooperating with Merriam-Webster, the American publisher of lexical dictionaries and reference books. In this case, the efforts were successful, with the verb to google being associated exclusively with the search engine developed and offered by the company (Lombardi). However, the growing popularity of products and services provided by Google Inc., as well as its domination in the industry, is likely to contribute to the genericization of its trademark, which may result in the need to implement more radical measures on the part of the enterprise.

In this regard, another way of preventing from becoming generic is altering the name of the trademark that is at risk. In particular, Google Inc. can transform the existing trademark (Google Search), which directly associates the brand name with web search and thus contributes to the genericization of the former, into a descriptive one, e.g. Google Web Search Engine (Friedmann 168). The transformation can be accompanied by the changes in the service logo, which has remained the same throughout the years, to make it more distinctive. Given the popularity of Google Search, it is possible to assume that the change will attract attention of numerous users, increasing the probability of the proper use of the trademark in the long-term perspective. At the same time, it is possible to point out that the legal means of preventing the genericization are few and their efficiency is questionable. For example, one cannot prohibit the use of a particular word in the everyday speech as such activity is a direct violation of human rights and freedoms. The use of the patent to protect the trademark is also far from being an optimal solution, as it was demonstrated by the case of Amazon.com, an electronic commerce organization that took such measures to protect its 1-Click technique from becoming generic. Specifically, in the European Union, the company’s application to the patent office was refused due to the fact that 1-Click was not inventive in its nature (Amazon.Com, Inc. 1). These problems are particularly relevant for Google Inc, a company known for its unofficial motto “Do Not Be Evil” (Lopez-Tarruella 356), which means that its options are limited.

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The courses of actions described above can be perceived as relatively taxing and costly, especially given the fact that the verb to google has become an almost indispensable part of the modern everyday speech, specifically among the people that deal with considerable amounts of data, i.e. students, teachers, researchers, etc. However, in case Google Inc. fails to protect its brand name from genericization, it may experience numerous negative effects. The first of them is related to the lowered competitiveness of the company’s products, specifically its search engine and, in turn, the enterprise as a whole. In particular, in case the term to google becomes associated with the process of web search as a whole rather than the one conducted with the help of tools provided by Google Inc., the consumers will stop distinguishing those from the ones offered by the company’s competitors (Friedmann 158). In turn, the enterprise is likely to lose its share of the search engines’ market, which is bound to affect its profitability. In the long-term perspective, the lowered financial resources of the firm may make further activity that is aimed at the prevention of genericization impossible, contributing to the existing problems.

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Moreover, the genericization of the trademark may result in it becoming a part of public domain. In other words, its transition to general use as the name of the product category leads to the cessation of its legal protection and opens the possibility of its use by other manufacturers (Friedmann 138). Consequently, the company will lose its right for the exclusive use of the trademark, which will result in the emergence of substitute products being offered under the same name and the financial losses of the company. In addition, it is impossible to exclude the possibility of trademark dilution that is likely to stem from its availability to a wide array of entrepreneurs (Friedmann 139). Moreover, in this case, Google Inc. may struggle to enforce its proprietary rights since the products sold under the Google trademark may be difficult to associate with a web search. Of course, the cases involving registration of new domains under the names similar to the one of a well-known brand (e.g. nokiagirls, itoyota, etc.) are usually ruled out in the favor of its original owner (Davidson 313). However, even such state of event does not guarantee complete protection. In this regard, it is possible to refer to the case of Mattel, a toy manufacturer owning a considerable amount of well-known trademarks, including Barbie, and the Canadian entrepreneur that has been accused of infringement of a trademark name by the company. Despite the long history of Barbie brand, the restaurateur has received a permission from the Trademarks Opposition Board to register the name Barbie’s for the new restaurant due to the fact that the risk of confusing these two trademarks was quite low. Moreover, the Federal Court of Appeal has supported this decision, with the restaurant retaining its name (Mattel, Inc. v. Canada, Inc. 773). In other words, without immediate actions, Google Inc. may be stripped of all legal protection when it comes to its intellectual property.

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In conclusion, it is possible to say that the genericization of trademark or brand name is a process that is quite difficult to control and prevent. In the case of Google Inc., the problem is exacerbated by the high popularity of company’s products and services, as well as its reputation as an enterprise that “does not do evil.” These factors contribute to the use of the company’s name in everyday speech, as well as limit the measures the organization may take to protect its trademark. At the same time, the failure to respond to the threats presented by the genericization will result in numerous negative consequences for the organization, including lowered profitability. Ultimately, its brand may become a part of public domain, losing legal protection. Therefore, one can state that under such conditions, the company is to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the situation and identify the measures that may affect the source of the problem in the long-term perspective.