When A Brand Becomes Too Successful

Friday, June 01, 2012


Aspirin, zipper, thermos, yo-yo -- even heroin was once a registered trademark. Today, they're generic product categories. Could the same happen to Google? It's already a recognized verb. Bob speaks with University of Michigan Law Professor Jessica Litman who says that though Google is unlikely to lose its trademark soon, there's a long history of 'genericide.'


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Jessica Litman

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Bob Garfield

Comments [2]

No one has mentioned this, but is Google's trademark even legal? Does "prior art" apply to trademarks as it does to patents? For example, a poetry professor in the 1970's got a patent (unexamined) for the "process" of coloring printed or displayed words and numbers to provide additional information, and got payoffs from several manufacturers of color text displays, but the application would have been rejected if anyone had produced a red letter Bible (the words of Jesus printed in red).

Similarly, I remembered a comic strip character from my youth, and Google itself found it: Barney Google, who first appeared 100 years ago in 1912! Does the use of the trademark as a character name (or a common word) before the product was developed invalidate the trademark application? If so, why wasn't this noticed by the PTO, or by anyone before me? I will listen for updates to this story!

Jun. 03 2012 10:39 PM

This has been around a while, but your story reminded me of it: http://www.collegehumor.com/video/5072264/googling-with-bing

Jun. 03 2012 10:07 PM

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