May 30, 2012
Another day, another naming nutcase.
A certain David Elliot in Phoenix is taking on Internet behemoth Google in an attempt to strip the company of its trademarks. Yes, he wants Google's name, and says that the trademark is now generic. He argues that the word Google now simply means "search on the Web."
I warned Google this would happen in a blog post years ago. Actually, in many blog posts where I talked about the slippery slope to genericism.
Now, Mr. Elliot is trying to make it official, not least because he owns an impressive amount of websites (750 of them, in fact) that contain the word "Google." Such as Googledonaldtrump.com and Googlegaycruises.com.
CNET notes that Elliot's legal team (who I hope are charging this man by the hour and collecting in advance):
Leans heavily on the American Dialect Society declaring that "Google" was the word of the decade, a word that means "search the Internet." The complaint also says Google is aware that its trademark could be lost, as happened with "zipper," "thermos" and "yo-yo."
Google has already sued Mr. Elliot for the rights to his websites and won, and I would imagine that they could afford to drop a few million just for the fun of it to ensure that they don't lose their trademark status.
To summarize Catherine Cai at Tom's Guide, this might have been the start of an interesting legal debate save for the fact that Elliot's websites are so pathetic looking it is clear he is trying to make a buck off Google's name. Cai concludes, "maybe this is just somehow an expensive, elaborate troll."
Yeah, that sounds right.
We Google things using Google, not Yahoo! or Bing. Additionally, Google has very carefully filed its trademark and defended it in the past.
The name may become generic someday, but only when it is determined through legal cases, and only then will Google possibly lose the trademark (although it really does not seem likely) but Elliot will be long gone by then.
The only thing that will remain of him at that point will be blogs and articles that are full of laughter, scorn and derision, that people can, well, Google.
April 26, 2012
Call me crazy, but I'm thinking that the Russian guy who is trying to trademark the goatee is probably a few Stoli shots short of a party.
Oh yes, I.V. Pugnach, whose last name surprisingly translates to "scarecrow" and not "ridiculous idiot," thinks the erstwhile goatee is an important part of Russian culture.
He scrutinizes non-Russians who wear the beard, stating they are committing a form of "genocide."
He believes he can charge non-Russians $600 for wearing a goatee.
He's also upset with President Obama for not punishing Gaddafi for wearing the beard and he also believes movie stars should be fined $30,000.
The trademark defines the beard as "the type with no sideburns that covers just the chin and the patch above the upper lip."
One lawyer explains to the Huffington Post that those who sport the beard have no need to worry. In fact, Pugnach would have to show that his beard is distinctive to him.
Is the particular beard distinctive enough that he can require a license, or sue for infringement if anyone else uses it? I wouldn't think so. But that doesn't mean it couldn't get past the licensing board.
If he is a popular blogger, he may have enough visitors on his page that will argue successfully that a substantial portion of the consuming public has grown to associate the beard with him - but the dude looks like Trotsky.
April 9, 2012
Do you own an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet?
For most of us, the important thing is that we own one period. But then again, most of us are not trademark attorneys.
In a recent Associated Press article, business writer Mae Anderson rightly suggests that the Apple iPad tablet runs the very real risk of becoming a genericized brand name and subsequently losing its very valuable trademark.
To avoid becoming a generic brand, a company's Intellectual Property (IP) counsel may offer a set of guidelines similar to these:
Don't use a mark as a noun, Do use the mark as an adjective
- It's Kleenex brand tissue, not Kleenex
Don't use the mark as a verb
- You don't xerox something, rather, you make a copy of it using a Xerox brand photocopier
Don't use the possessive form
- It's not Nike's new shoe, it's the new shoe from Nike brand
Don't change the form of a mark
- It's Microsoft Windows 2000 operating system, not Win2000
In other words, marketers should not:
Rollerblade, wear Levi's, drink a Coke or line their lips with Chap Stick.Instead marketers need to:
Ambulate (to move about) using Rollerblade brand inline skates, wear Levi's jeans, drink a Coca-Cola soft drink and line their lips with the Chap Stick brand lip balm.
To accomplish this, brand managers in partnership with their IP counsel have created more than enough pages of 'brand guidelines' to fill an iPad or an iPad tablet or simply a tablet.
Yet even marketers with the best intentions break their own rules:
- Google's logo is in constant morph
- Steve Ballmer, Microsoft CEO, told us that Bing has the potential 'to verb-up'
- Vanguard breaks two rules with it's tagline - "Are you investing, or Vanguarding"
- And every company that uses just the brand name URL breaks the rule as well - Wheaties.com, Tide.com, Viagra.com and Sharpie.com
Since our English language is on a collision course with the path of least resistance (think Twitter and text messaging) and since the internet has created a forum for each and everyone of us to use words and brands in the way that most appeals to us, there are very few linguistic barriers on the road to genercism.
This could be a positive considering some of the iPad associations.
February 24, 2012
Quick... what do Apple Inc. and Michael Jordan have in common?
Answer: they are both defending their trademarks in China.
Apple has been struggling with Chinese upstart Proview over the iPad name for a while now and two days ago, Jordan announced he was suing a Chinese sportswear maker called Qiaodan Sports for using his name without his permission.
The name of the company is taken from the Chinese version of Jordan's name and is obviously recognizable in China as such.
In addition, the products that Qiaodan makes bears a logo featuring what looks like a heavier Michael Jordan holding a ping pong paddle. The company even has what appears to be false Michael Jordan stores in China, and is now trying to raise money to be traded on the Shanghai Stock Exchange.
Jordan has said "It is deeply disappointing to see a company build a business off my Chinese name without my permission, use the No 23 and even attempt to use the names of my children."
He goes on to say that "This complaint is not about money. It's about principle and protecting my name. Any monetary awards I might receive will be invested in growing the sport of basketball in China."
Qiaodan is one of China's top sportswear apparel makers by revenue and number of outlets, so to see such a high profile group blatantly trading off one of the world's biggest names is, to say the least, alarming.
Qiaodan has put up a petulant notice on its website saying, "The Qiaodan trademark is applied by our company in accordance with Chinese law. We therefore will enjoy an exclusive right to its use, which is protected by law."
We will continue to watch this example of brazen trademark violation with interest.
February 21, 2012
The New York Times has noted that trademark disputes between big and small companies are heating up... and seem far more bitter than ever before.
The real fight seems to be between Apple and Proview over the iPad product name, a story I have been covering for some time.
Here we see another David and Goliath conflict where each side seems utterly intractable.
Proview is an Asian company, down on its luck and bankrupt, fighting for the rights to the iPad name. Its persistency regarding protecting the trademark has involved the Chinese government and threatened not only a profitable relationship between Apple and China but possibly created a murky environment for others defending trademarks in China.
Proview is aware of the equity behind the iPad name and Apple will be in a hurry to settle with them and get back to business as usual.
Proview seems to be seeking considerable compensation from Apple, which illustrates that trademarks have such value that companies like Apple might be willing to pay to use a recognizable name like iPad in China.
Apple has too much invested in the iPad name to let it go in a huge market like China. Apple will hammer Proview as hard as it can legally, and then, should that fail, pay them to go away.
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