Google to clamp down on misuse of its brand name

LONDON - Google has sent legal letters to media organisations warning them of copyright infringement action if the internet search giant's name is not used correctly.

The letters follow the entering into the language of the word "to google" as a verb. The term "to google" entered the OED in June, meaning "to search for information on the web, particularly by using the Google search engine; to search for information related to a new or potential girlfriend or boyfriend".

However, Google is concerned that misuse of its name could result in a breach of copyright, prompting it to send letters to media organisations, reminding them of the consequences of infringing its trademark.

It is understood Google wishes users to "conduct a Google search", rather than use any of the terms that have entered into pop culture since it launched eight years ago.

These include: Googlestalk, to track down a former acquaintance or lover by entering their name into the search engine; or Googlewhack, to find a unique phrase on the internet. The latter pastime spawned a bestselling book by comedian Dave Gorman. There is Googleography, which involves tracking down your life online.

A spokesperson for Google said: "We think it's important to make the distinction between using the word Google to describe using Google to search the internet, and using the word Google to describe searching the internet. It has some serious trademark issues."

But despite Google's concern over what it deems "inappropriate" usage of its name, a raft of companies over the years have had their names co-opted and become synonymous for the product they manufacture, including Hoover, Aspirin, Jacuzzi, Xerox and Portakabin.

Google, which has over 60% of worldwide internet searches conducted through its portal, has been criticised by the web community, which has accused the company of "lacking a sense of humour" over the issue. Its company motto is "don't be evil".

Some bloggers have taken particular umbrage to Google's statement, which said it was inappropriate to use phrases like "I googled that hottie at work", and claim it is an indication that the company has lost touch with the viral element of youth internet culture.

However, some bloggers have countered that Google's statement was intended as a parody, and that it has been misinterpreted.

Last week, Google announced it had finalised a three-year deal worth $900m to make it the exclusive internet search and keyword advertising partner for the Fox TV network.

If you have an opinion on this or any other issue raised on Brand Republic, join the debate in the Forum.


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