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Federal appeals court upholds Google trademark

Federal appeals court upholds Google trademark

Google filed a cybersquatting complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and claimed trademark infringement.

The Google trademark dispute dates to 2012 when a man named Chris Gillespie registered 763 domain names that combined "google" with other words and phrases, including googledonaldtrump.com.

Google may have become a verb and most of us may use it everyday, but a federal appeals court says it's not generic.

That's the term for when a brand name becomes so widely used that it no longer just refers to the original trademarked brand.

“The term ‘GOOGLE, is, or has become, a generic term universally used to describe the action of internet searching with any search engine, which can not serve as a trademark to the exclusion of others, ” the two said in their complaint.

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A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit said the lawsuit did not present enough evidence to support such a claim.

Jason Kravitz, a Boston-based trademark lawyer, said the appeals court's decision reinforces how hard it is for challengers to have brand names declared generic. The court noted that trademark loss to genericide occurs when the name has become an "exclusive descriptor" that makes it hard for competitors to compete unless they use that name. But if the public mostly think the mark describes “what” product or service is being supplied, then genericide has occurred, the judge said. In fact, it's so ubiquitous that it's often used simply used as a verb to describe the process of searching for information online.

"Because not a single competitor calls its search engine "a google, ' and because members of the consuming public recognize and refer to different 'internet search engines, ' Elliott has not shown that there is no available substitute for the word 'google" as a generic term", Tallman wrote. Coke, for example, is used by some generically but has managed not to become generic.

Chief District Judge Louis Guirola Jr., of the Southern District of MS, sitting by designation, joined the opinion.

Luckily for the search giant, the Arizona judge didn't buy its Gillespie's argument, and on Tuesday, neither did the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco. Judge Paul Watford concurred separately, calling the majority opinion “well-reasoned, ” but arguing that it was unnecessary “to resolve whether evidence of indiscriminate verb use is categorically irrelevant in an action alleging that a trademark has become generic.”.


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