Are Google and Facebook Losing Their Brand?
It happened to companies in the past. Popular generic descriptions such as aspirin, zipper, trampoline and even escalator were once protected trademarks. Due to their popularity and broad use, the brand lost its intellectual property rights and competitors were enabled to use the genericized trademark to describe similar products.
Too Popular To Fail
When there is an original sound in the world, it makes a hundred echoes.
— John A. Shedd
How can a company lose their intellectual property rights and the power of their brand? By becoming too popular, actually! When a phrase or name evolves to signify a service or product instead of the source, the trademark becomes generic.
Googling, Facebooked and the continued variations of the popular brand names erode its power. How many of us say, “enter that query into a search engine” when “go google that” is so much easier to say?
How Brands Protect Themselves
Brands protect themselves with lawsuits, legal requests and even ad campaigns. A good example of this is Xerox’s campaign to keep consumers from calling photocopies “xeroxes”. The ad tells the fateful story of the zipper, and asks for its customers to cease the use of Xerox as a verb.
Google has been up to similar work, but in a quiet way. In 2003, the BBC covered the case ofGoogle’s trademark lawyers trying to keep “google” from entering an online dictionary. TechCrunch has covered a few of Facebook’s more popular trademark ventures, including Facebook’s intent to trademark the word “Face”. No doubt we’ll be hearing more about Twitter’s trademark and brand management.
If you’d like to learn more about Brands and trademark genericide, check out the articles on Wikipedia and Patents101. If you want to see an extensive list of trademarks gone generic, you can find it here.
The Future Issues
As the popularity of “googling” and “Facebooking” spreads, we’ll no doubt see new and interesting trademark cases come to light in their battle to keep their brand identity. One thing I am interesting in seeing is how Google (G+) and Gatorade (That’s G) compete for the dominance of the G lettered brands.
What future issues do you see Google and Facebook having? What is the next brand that will battling with trademarks and brand identity?
Stay educated, internet.