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It's a losing battle, but I suppose they have to expend the effort if only for form's sake.

Google wants people to only use "google" if they actually use the Google search engine, so no saying, "I googled it" when they use Bing or Yahoo! or Dogpile or some other search engine.

There's a lot of precedent against them:  Kleenex tried it, and lost out. Now people call all paper tissues "kleenex".  Xerox tried it, but the weight of people saying they "xeroxed" a paper made the term generic.

The article also named aspirin, escalator, and zipper as previous brand names that have become so ubiquitous that they transcended the brand to stand for all products in that category, regardless of the other companies that also make similar things.

It's got to be a rush to know that your product is so popular that it becomes a household word, that it trumps all the other manufacturers and their brands.

And scary, too, that when you gain household word status, you lose control of your brand.

Except, Otis Elevator Company (who gave us the word "elevator") is still operating, still making and servicing elevators, and still profitable. There's Shindler, Crescent, and Modular Elevator Companies, too, but they are johnny-come-latelies and no one pays much attention to the manufacturer of the elevators unless they're buying - and you can bet most architects and construction firms know Otis is first and still best in the elevator field. Becoming genericized has not hurt them.

Kleenex brand tissues are still made and sold, and becoming a household word didn't hurt their business. I remember the law suits when Kleenex tried to maintain control of their brand, but in the end, the word "kleenex" means both Kleenex brand tissues and disposable paper tissues of all other brands.

Google is taking rank with some pretty respectable companies, and while they feel they have to raise a fuss and pursue a few legal cases, in the end, the power of the people will prevail and "google" (lower case) will always be the term we use for looking things up on the internet, even if people used Bing, or Yahoo! or Blekko or YaCy or Zillow or Nexis... It's a catchy, memorable name.

It was their goal to become ubiquitous, and now that they've achieved it, they have to make a show about maintaining brand control, just like Kleenex and Xerox did back in the day.

Welcome to the Überwelt, Google.  I'm sure Kleenex, Otis Elevators, Xerox, Bayer Aspirin, and Goodyear Zippers will make room for you and you'll get used to being both a Brand Name and a household word.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (12+ / 0-)

    All knowledge is worth having. Check out OctopodiCon to support steampunk learning and fun. Also, on DKos, check out the Itzl Alert Network.

    by Noddy on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:08:17 AM PDT

  •  They should be content with the win (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    avsp, Noddy, chimene

    Because your product becoming synonymous with the general product category is a win.  Kleenex is an excellent example.  How much would HP celebrate if it people referred to all printers as HPs or printing as HPing?  

    Household word status is a tremendous win.  Why try to turn it into a farcical perception of loss?

    We do not forgive. We do not forget. The whole world is watching.

    by Tracker on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:26:49 AM PDT

    •  To a point, that's true. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, chimene

      But if the word becomes too much a synonym for the product category, you lose the trademark. From the linked article:

      "Aspirin was originally a trademark of Bayer AG," Swyers wrote. "Escalator was originally a trademark of the Otis Elevator Company. Even the word Zipper, at one time, was a trademark owned by B.F. Goodrich. Now, because of their respective fame and genericization, they merely refer to classes of products we see every day and do not identify the source of those goods."
      If it becomes too generic a term, Google will lose the protection of its own trademark... and it'll be no more a trademark violation for a search engine to advertise themselves as an engine for googling things than it is for RiteAid to market their acetylsalicylic acid pill as aspirin.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 10:57:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Google knows, there is no such thing (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    avsp, blueoasis, Catte Nappe, Noddy

    as bad publicity!   Velcro is another example (for hook and loop fasteners).

    If love could have saved you, you would have lived forever. & http://www.dailykos.com/blog/Okiciyap

    by weck on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 07:37:20 AM PDT

  •  Google is also a fun word to say. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blueoasis, elfling, Noddy, BlackSheep1

    I'm glad it is becoming the shorthand term for looking something up on the internet. I mean, really, "I binged it" sounds like something you might do at a frat party.

  •  I used to write ads for Fender Guitars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, Noddy, BlackSheep1

    Every time I would use the term "Strat" in an ad (which literally every rock musician on earth understands to mean Fender's most popular Stratocaster model), their lawyers would respond "You can't call it a 'Strat'. You must call it a 'Stratocaster-brand electric guitar'."

    Yeah, right, no problem. The rockers of the world would surely be impressed by how cool that sounded.

    So we basically ignored the lawyers.

    Interestingly, plenty of companies have copied the Stratocaster, but these guitars are never called "Strats". Typically, they're called "Strat copies" or "Strat knockoffs".

    Somewhere in heaven, Leo Fender is smiling.

    (And don't hold your breath waiting for somebody to tell you 'I just did a Google-brand internet search.')

    What is valued is practiced. What is not valued is not practiced. -- Plato

    by RobLewis on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 10:06:39 AM PDT

    •  I seem to recall the Lego company... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Noddy, BlackSheep1, nchristine

      ...getting in a tiff about this as well recently, where they not only wanted people to stop referring to generic non-Lego-brand blocks as Legos, but they also were trying to get regular internet people (a) never to pluralize it (it's apparently just Lego, whether singular or plural), and (b) to put it in all caps with an ® at the end.

      Adobe has apparently tried a similar brand control with Photoshop, for all the good that's done them.

      "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a communist." --Dom Helder Camara, archbishop of Recife

      by JamesGG on Wed Mar 27, 2013 at 11:00:33 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Both Kleenex and Xerox are still holding on (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noddy, BlackSheep1

    Xerox was saved by fierce competition and the death of other copying methods (mimeograph, carbon paper, etc.) I never say "xerox something," but I do say "copy something."

    Some other examples of generic trademarks include heroin and phillips-head screwdriver. Now, excuse me while I go play the Scrabble Brand Crossword Game.

    Disclaimer: I welcome Hasbro as my word game overlord.

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