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Google Warns Against Using Its Name as Verb

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Posted on Aug 14, 2006
Nothing to Google here

The search engine company, which tries to affect an air of youthful nonconformity, legally admonished the Washington Post for using the word “google” as a generic verb to describe Internet search in general.

  • Online expert Steve Rubel calls it “one of the worst PR moves in history.”

    Washington Post:

    ... Google, evidently, took offense to this passage in last month’s article: “Google, the word, now takes its place alongside the handful of proper nouns that have moved beyond a particular product to become descriptors of an entire sector—generic trademarks.”

    This characterization of Google, the letter warned, is “genericide” and should be avoided. Such letters are cranked out every day by companies keen on protecting their trademarks. Wham-O Inc. wants writers to eschew “Frisbee” for “plastic flying disc,” for instance. I’ll note that in my Palm. Excuse me—my “personal digital assistant.”

    Google, however, goes the extra mile and provides a helpful list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of its name. To show how hip and down with the kids Google is, the company gets a little wacky with its examples. Here’s one:

    “Appropriate: He ego-surfs on the Google search engine to see if he’s listed in the results.

    Inappropriate: I googled that hottie.”


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    By Tenderfoot, August 15, 2006 at 11:04 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    This is really no big deal. Companies routinely send out such form letters to protect their trademarks. You’ll also see ads that tell you, for example, that Xerox should not be used to mean “photocopy.” They’re designed to serve as evidence in court if there’s ever a challenge to the trademark. The word Aspirin, for example, was trademarked by Bayer, but the company failed to protect the trademark in the United States, so it has become generic. (It’s still a trademark in other countries.) Google is trying to prevent the word from going generic. If they didn’t, you’d have people saying things like “I googled it on”

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    By Liz, August 14, 2006 at 8:26 pm Link to this comment
    (Unregistered commenter)

    but it’s good publicity! Talk about putting one’s foot in ones mouth. That’s mean of google to do that. when people like idolize them in a way and they say “googling” instead of web searching, since it’s easier to say! Geez google.

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