The Supreme Court declined Monday to review a petition asserting that the term “google” has become too generic and therefore unqualified for trademark protection.
Google recently won a lawsuit which challenged the validity of the Google trademark. Under U.S. trademark law, trademark rights are lost when a trademark becomes the generic name for the goods or services for which it is used. Several brand names have succumbed to this tragic occurrence known as genericide.
Formerly protectible trademarks that lost trademark rights are aspirin, escalator, thermos, and kleenex.
In Elliott v. Google, the Plaintiffs filed the case in the 9th Circuit in California and after losing, petitioned to the Supreme Court to hear the case. The case alleged that Google has become a generic verb for searching something on the Internet via a search engine. According to the petition to the Supreme Court, “There is no single word other than Google that conveys the action of searching the Internet using any search engine.”
The three word term “search the Internet” would be the closet alternative. However, it is understood that despite the public’s use of “Google” as a verb, it does not tell us anything about how the public primarily understands the word itself.
The underlying ruling in the 9th Circuit found that “Google” may frequently be used as a verb, however it is still a brand. As such, the court held that Google remains a protectible trademark. The decision acknowledged that while “Google” can be synonymous with “search the Internet”, the company’s name is still distinct and seen by consumers to designate the source of services.