Google has grown far beyond an online search engine. In addition to being one of the most valuable brands in the world, Google has become part of our language. You don’t search something online, you Google it. But, Google’s name being part of the language puts the company trademark in danger. Google vigilantly defends its trademark whenever necessary, but it could lose its legal status as a protected trademark because of mainstream usage.
There are a number of powerful companies that have lost their legal status as protected trademarks, including aspirin, thermos, escalator, trampoline and cellophane. These words no longer refer to the brand but to the product the brand made. Some companies, such as Band-Aid, Kleenex, Xerox and Photoshop, have been able to hold on to their trademarked status despite being commonly used as verbs.
While awareness of your product is spread when your company name becomes part of everyday language, this can hurt you in the long run. Google has shown concern toward the use of their name over the years and has even fought in court to protect their brand. In 2014, a judge rejected a claim that the Google trademark is generic. According to a New York Times report, Google has taken further steps to protect their brand by forming a new company called Alphabet.
Alphabet is the new mothership that will oversee Google. This way, Google can remain focused on search engine functions, while other companies can fall under the umbrella of Alphabet without being called Google. The recent New York Times article points out that a spokeswoman for Google denies that the change was motivated by linguistic concerns, but this will allow Alphabet companies to be independent from Google.
If Google is eventually classified as a generic term, the Alphabet holding company and all of the new companies associated with it will remain unaffected. Alphabet is safe from being part of the everyday language. This is just one of many clever ways that you can protect your brand and your trademarks.