August 16, 2006 1:54 PM PDT

Google wants people to stop googling

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Google has said it intends to crack down on the use of its name as a generic verb, in phrases such as "to google someone."

The Internet search giant said such phrases were potentially damaging to its brand.

"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 generally describe searching the Internet. It has some serious trademark issues," a representative for the search company said.

Julie Coleman, an authority on linguistics from the University of Leicester, said she could understand Google's concerns.

"The prestige associated with a trademark is lost if people use it generically, so I do see Google's point. They also do lots more than just search, so maybe they're reluctant for their brand name to be restricted in this way," Coleman said.

But Coleman added that once new words enter into common usage, it is impossible to stop their use.

"Google can't possibly stop the spread of the verb," Coleman said. "Normal people are using it in normal conversation and in writing, and they aren't likely to face legal proceedings."

What Google could do, said Coleman, is "force dictionaries to mention its origin in a trademarked brand name, which is what the Oxford English Dictionary already does."

Even if Google's attempts to stop this misuse of its trademark turn out to be in vain, many argue it shouldn't even be trying.

Members of the blogging community have suggested it is a sign that Google is losing its once-cool facade and that the search giant is taking itself too seriously.

One blogger also suggested Google has missed the obvious compliment in all this, which is that the use is evidence the company now owns the search industry.

"This should be the ultimate compliment, and I cannot believe Google sees it differently," blogger and computing graduate Frank Gruber wrote.

Steve Rubel, another blogger, branded it "one of the worst PR moves in history."

Morgan McLintic, a PR executive based in the heart of Silicon Valley, said Google should certainly learn when to love its addition to the English language.

"'Googling' is already common parlance for searching on the Internet," McLintic wrote. "And there is only one place you go to 'google,' so this is a good thing for Google with a capital 'G'. The media's use of the verb is simply a reflection of everyday use."

Google's move reflects the concerns of other businesses, such as Xerox, which has complained that its brand has become a generic term for photocopying respectively. Apple Computer is also taking action to defend "iPod."

AOL is another technology company that has fought the tendency of brands to become generic. It has contacting media outlets in the past over the use of "instant messenger" to describe any IM application, claiming that to be its brand.

Will Sturgeon of Silicon.com reported from London.

See more CNET content tagged:
verb, Google Inc., blogger, public relations, brand

31 comments

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Wow
From the ultimate in cool to the apex of stupidity in just one press release. They are even risking that to 'google' no longer means a 'generic search on internet', but an idiotic King Canute type move that flies in the face of all logic.... in fact that's probably what it will come to mean if they take this any further.
Posted by Jerry Dawson (125 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
So i'm watching this commercial for Pontiac where they say "just google Pontiac dealers dallas-ft.worth" and I'm thinking... i bet I can get high up in those rankings... people need to understand that Google is a search engine... but also much more technology...
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Reply Link Flag
with what?
With what is it that you agree? That this is probably the stupidest PR move in the history of marketing? Or that Google is "threatened" by the fact that their name hqs become a household word?
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
Link Flag
Hmmm...
I don't think I've ever "googled" anything, I mean, used that term to signify my having used Google; but I have used a Kleenex because I didn't have a Band-aid when I cut my finger while I was Xeroxing something.
Posted by GlennAl (25 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I Just Want To Know...
Has Google stopped using phrases like "make a xerox" or "hand me a clean-x" or "the coke machine is empty" internally?
Posted by wwco (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
They are obligated to do this
What a lot of people aren't taking into account -- and the author of the article omitted -- is that Federal trademark laws obligate Google to take such actions. If they don't, then they are at risk of losing any rights they might otherwise have had under trademark law. The fact that people are already using it loosely is irrelevant; people have used "Band-Aid" generically in numerous contexts for years. But the company who owns the trademark must still work to protect it using appropriate legal means.
Posted by markrob35 (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Amazing!
Has Coca-Cola lost rights to their trademark? Has Kleenex lost rights to theirs?
Sorry, Charlie. You're just not up to our standards.
Posted by El Kabong (100 comments )
Link Flag
Yes, they have no choice...
This is a legal matter. If they don't try to defend the trademark, they have no recourse in court if another company starts to use it and compete against them. It doesn't matter that they can't stop the generic use, any more than you can stop people from sneezing into a Kleenex(R) or ordering a Coke(R). They just have to demonstrate that they are trying to stop it.

Steve
Posted by stevestrange (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah...
Said the Corporation to its clients:
"Stop the free advertising!! It must be stopped!"

But I agree, its rather annoying to use a brand name as a generic catchphrase. I don't know how many times I've backhanded someone for asking my how many songs I have on my iPod (I have a Creative ZEN Vision:M). That, and people starting arguments with me about how they think that an "iPod" does more than an mp3 player. Ahhh!!! An "iPod" is a _brand_ of _mp3 players_!! It _is_ an mp3 player!!! (a sucky one, but an mp3 player none-the-less)

Besides, I personally use search.msn.com for my web-searching needs.
Posted by advs89 (68 comments )
Reply Link Flag
hey **** YOU . kk you are a pathetic liitle ***** ! ( by the way i didn't know how to spell pathetic so i GOOGLED IT)
it's whining ass *****'s like you that have to find a problem with every thing so ..... **** YOU MAN!
Posted by jewdude234 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Apple
Is apple gonna Sue them for that, beacuse it sends and receves Data and is game related. I mean I would hate to see Google Vs. Apple..... No wait..... a minute i would wanna see Apple's Lawers get creamed. Maybe they "googled" to find out whos useing pod in there products. OMG i think i found what Apple's Lawers Do in there time OMG!!! :-P
Posted by Shadowfire267 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RIDICULOUS!
From my perspective, to use the word "google" is like the ultimate compliment! It tells the world that Google is the dominant search engine, and is great "free advertising". Besides the English language is the easiest and most persistant at accepting changes to itself. What in the world are the PR people thinking?
Posted by deanhoveysmith (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SPAM(tm) is not the same as spam
He is a nice example.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.spam.com/ci/ci_in.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.spam.com/ci/ci_in.htm</a>
Posted by (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good example
best argument yet
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Link Flag
Protecting a TM (R) is no joke
Just to reiterate other comments, if Google(R) doesn't protect their trademark then they would lose in court. If other corporate advertisers are using the term "google" to generically signify "search and you will find us on the web" versus engaging in an approved co-marketing effort then those companies should be held liable and accountable. How do you think Pontiac would respond if Google(R) ran ads that used their trademark to promote their product without giving proper consideration?
Posted by mnaquin (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Google as verb = generational trend
This would be like Coke saying..."please only use Coke when referring to Coca-Cola...having people say Coke only when Pepsi is avaialbe would be foolish." A brand that can become a generic term for anything is fundamentally one the most powerful promotional tools that money CAN'T buy. It's marketing 101.
Posted by ajperry (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
This has to stop!
I'm sorry, but this is rediculous! Almost every brand that becomes this popular has had this happen. Coke for example, in the south everything is Coke...Sprite is coke, etc. Fiberglass is a brand, but anything similar is still called fiberglass. You can't control how the public refers to something. If this were to happen we've lost a true freedom. They should take this as a compliment in the popularity of their brand, as opposed to an insult or infringing on their brand!
Posted by LindsayMegan (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Googling
If they dont want the public to use it as a verb, they should give each of their "ventures/products" a name that they dont mind people picking up on and using that way and keep/protect/promote Google as the high level, "holding company" name... although, this is probably overdue now that it has begun to take hold... just a thought...
Posted by cmrsage (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Googling
from a little different perspecive, I would guess there very few companies thinking that this would not be a good problem to have... to get to that point, you'd have to have done pretty well.
Posted by cmrsage (15 comments )
Link Flag
Kleenex, Rolodex, Xerox.....Google
This history of the English language is one of appropriating foreign
words and incorporating them into everyday speech. Isn't it the
goal of a brand to the ubiquitous term for a category? I think
somebody at Google woke up on the wrong side of the trademark.
Posted by Linda Z. (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
How Embarrassing for Google
How so very embarrassing for the CEO and the marketing staff. Google has now become so detatched from business-as-usual that they are bucking the rule of brand. It was bad enough they decided to stray from their core (that was the beginning of the end), but now they've sent a shiver down the spine of anyone who understands real business. Talk about a "stop" sign in the road.

This is probably the most profound example yet that this company is driven by consumer and industry dynamics, and not a result of any shrewdness on the part of the employees.
Posted by redrotor (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
What a contradiction..
When they call people who work at Google - Googlers!!

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.google.com/jobs/meet.html" target="_newWindow">http://www.google.com/jobs/meet.html</a>
Posted by Jacquelinebiggs (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
not really
that means they work there, they are not all searchers...
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Link Flag
Google wants people stop googling.
In latin country the daily use of word will spread
the curiosity and the USE of it....if as the case
of GOOGLE I understand they position but make all
this fuss!Is just a joke....Let people free of use
google in every day talks up.
Posted by claudio29751 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Google
In latin country the daily use of word will spread
the curiosity and the USE of it....if as the case
of GOOGLE I understand they position but make all
this fuss!Is just a joke....Let people free of use
google in every day talks up.
Posted by claudio29751 (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The Google
The Google is an imaginary beast illustrated by V.C. Vickers, my grandfather, published by J &#38; E Bumpus Ltd London in 1913, again in 1931 and again by Oxford University Press in 1979. I'm sure this Google googled, and has been googling for nearly 100 years!
Posted by Toffy20 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
It's a number too!
isn't it a number as well?

oops... wrong spelling

A googol is the large number 10/100
Posted by djpaisley (80 comments )
Link Flag
What Google?
COme on Google; get real!
Posted by andyslaptop (16 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey bro chill man.Like it's not a big deal. So just chill out
Posted by jewdude234 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey bro chill man.Like it's not a big deal. So just chill out
Posted by jewdude234 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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