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Google Losing Fight For Its Name

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The search advertising company has been fighting against the usage of its name as a verb ever since Merriam-Webster put ‘google’ in the dictionary. It’s a battle they are not going to win.

Google has attempted to gently request and chastise writers who use their brand name as a verb. The company fears the time when Google becomes google, a generic term meaning ‘to search’. The Washington Post has been dinged by Google for doing this, as has our Jason Lee Miller.

Google, meet the real world. They’re googling all the time out here, and it’s happening in all kinds of media.

During the afternoon airing of ESPN Radio’s Dan Patrick show yesterday, the conversation turned away from sports to one of Dan’s favorite topics: Jessica Alba and the possibility of her appearing on the show.

During his banter with producer Phil ‘The Showkiller,’ Dan said he’s heard that an Alba appearance would also entail bringing along her Fantastic Four co-star, Chris Evans.

Dan wanted to know more about Evans, so he casually asked Phil to google the actor. Phil managed to pull that off without wrecking the show, and no one thought anything of the request. If Google cared we haven’t heard about it.

The world of print has no problem googling either. In Esquire‘s May 2007 print issue, a comment from Brian Frazer, author of Hyper-Chondriac, included the G word. The comment was part of a broader health feature on weight loss:

I never linked my inability to relax with my diet. Then I visited an Ayurveda specialist (the ancient science of wellness through "balanced" living; Google it – I have only 200 words here.)

Those are just a couple of examples, observed about an hour apart in the most unscientific setting possible – the afternoon commute. Add them up over the course of a day, overhearing other people subject Google the brand to google the transitive verb in various places, and it’s pretty clear. Google is going the way of Kleenex and Xerox as a brand name.

Google Losing Fight For Its Name
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  • Mister Snitch!

    Quite right, and well-observed. What happened to Kleenex (and nearly happened to Coke) is about to happen to Google, and there’s nothing they can do about it.

    However, there is a mitigating factor at work that Kleenex did not enjoy. Google is also part of the name of a number of other Google applications, such as Google Mail, Google Ads, Google Desktop, etc. Going generic would hurt Google if it were only a search engine. But with all it has going on, is ‘going generic’ really going to hurt the company’s ability to trademark itself? Probably not. Although “Xerox’ and ‘Klenex’ are now verbs, you still cannot market your product using those names (unless you ARE Xerox or Kleenex). No one else can market their product as “Google” anything.

    These days, it seems like less of a handicap for a trademarked name to go generic. Indeed, it’s seeming increasingly like a goal, to me.

  • Stephen

    What they really hate is when you say, “I googled it on Yahoo

    • David A. Utter

      They don’t want google to be synonymous with search that takes place on sites that aren’t named Google.

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