Trademark Troubles: Back to Basics for Google
Learn how corporate giants can no longer escape the implications of trademark law through looking at google's trademark troubles.
‘Let’s start with our ABCs and 123s’
It’s the story about the fastest kid in the playground tripping over his shoelaces. It’s the story about that time Google ignored trademark basics. Since Monday night, the technology giant has been ridiculed by the media and risks legal action for not complying with trademark law.
So What is Alphabet?
The Google group has recently undergone a makeover. It has reorganised all its subsidiary companies under one parent entity called Alphabet. Alphabet will now oversee Google, Calico (health), Nest (home automation) among others. The purpose of the change is to increase transparency to investors. Its effect to users? Close to nothing.
For example, you will not need to shift your search engine from Google.com to Alphabet.com. In fact, if you did visit Alphabet.com you would find nothing about Google at all. Rather, you would soon discover that BMW owns alphabet.com for its fleet management company called Alphabet. Likewise, the Twitter account @alphabet has already been taken by some guy who experienced unusual traffic on Monday.
Getting a Piece of the Alphabet
The Google group has chosen a name that has already been used by other groups. On top of BMW, there is also Alphabet Funds, a finance company based in New York; Alphabet Plumbing based in Arizona; and a number of Alphabet preschools. If any, BMW has certainly trademarked Alphabet which gives BMW the right to use the name exclusively.
The Google group may run into legal ramifications for using the name without approval.
Did Google forget to ‘Google’ the name Alphabet?
Newspapers have thus humorously called Google out on its failure to comply with trademark law. The fact that one of the largest companies in the world faces the risk of being sued demonstrates both the complexity of trademark law and the extent of protection it affords.
A trademark is a legally registered distinguished component that sets your business apart from your competitors. If you choose to register your business name, your logo or even a colour – like Cadbury has for its iconic purple – you are have the exclusive right to use the ‘sign’.
Having a distinguishable ‘sign’ is a valuable part of your business. Your logo can carry a whole identity with it. For example, if you see the Pringles logo you know exactly what kind of chips you are buying, the freshness, the shape, the flavour. You can distinguish yourself from other companies and create a brand that will protect you from competitors.
Why You Need a Trademark
A trademark will also give you the right to protect that identity by taking legal action against anyone who uses that sign without approval – just like BMW against the Google group. You may even choose to license the right to your ‘sign’. For example, if a company approached you to use a particular colour you have trademarked, you can license them the right to use it at a given rate. You can read more about trademarks and how to file one in our recent post.
A trademark is a valuable and powerful asset to your business. Have your name or logo trademarked with the help of LawPath’s online trademark solution to ensure your business identity is recognised and preserved. Who knows, your trademark may eventually be bought out for $1 billion just like @alphabet’s twitter account!
Unsure where to start? Contact a LawPath consultant on 1800LAWPATH to learn more about customising legal documents, obtaining a fixed-fee quote from one our network of 600+ expert lawyers or to get answers to your legal questions.
Dominic is the CEO of Lawpath, dedicating his days to making legal easier, faster and more accessible to businesses. Dominic is a recognised thought-leader in Australian legal disruption, and was recognised as a winner of the 2015 Australian Legal Innovation Index.