Please, it’s not "Googled" but "run a Google search"


Frank Ahrens of The Washington Post writes today (registration required, also picked up in the Seattle Times) that "Google goes the extra mile and provides a helpful list of appropriate and inappropriate uses of its name."



"In July, The Washington Post and other media outlets noted that "google" had entered Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary. It was a landmark for the search engine, going from nonentity to common usage in only eight years.


"One would think a company that existed only in the minds of two college dudes a few years ago would be happy that The Post and other media outlets prominently marked the occasion.


"One would, until one got a letter from Google's trademark lawyer.


"Google, evidently, took offense to a passage in The Post article: "Google, the word, now takes its place alongside the handful of proper nouns that have moved beyond a particular product to become descriptors of an entire sector — generic trademarks."


It's difficult to imagine Google employees on the Mountain View campus saying "I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party." (This is an excerpt from the letter from Google's trademark lawyer, sent to The Washington Post.)


I wonder if Google was as diligent when David Sheff of Playboy met with the founders in 2004 or Lesley Stahl's interview on CBS' 60 Minutes in 2005? Perhaps Google should also send a letter to their finance group, as the term is also used without rebuke (as included in the above Sheff article) in their own S-1 Registration Statement. 


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Comments (3)

  1. Nick Malik says:

    well, it is easier to say ‘I googled that hot chick from the party’ than it is to say ‘I ran an MSN Search on that hot chick from the party.’

    For what it’s worth, they achieved something that only a handful of brands have achieved, including Kleenex, Coke, and Xerox.  They are not the generic term for web search, regardless of what search engine is actually used.

    I fight this by calling them ‘Greed-gle’.

    I use Search.msn.com and the MSN search bar.  I find MSN Search results to be every bit as good as Greed-gle’s search results.  (sometime, better).  Why?  Because Greed-gle declared war on Microsoft. Not on Microsoft’s search engine or web site, but other MS products.  Areas that earn no revenue for Greed-gle.  It is spiteful corporate behavior, and I have no respect for Greed-gle in this self declared holy war.

    So, I’m glad that their law department has finally realized that losing their brand to the dictionary means that the brand cannot be defended in court.  Serves them right.

  2. Andrew says:

    Nick:

    a) Your findings are very strange, because Google is a mile ahead of MSN Search.

    b) I don’t see a Google bar at the top of Windows Live Spaces or in Windows Live Messenger. It is a Live Search or whatever it is called now, bar. So I ask you: how on earth can Google compete with such integration across all products, without bringing the whole range of products into the game? Unless Microsoft is willing to make entire versions of their products just to suit every competitor, the competitors only have one option, and that is to bring the entire complement of products into the market somehow.

    On the article, I think banning the word "googled" is stupid as well. It is just another fine example of bad marketing departments. We all say "googled" already, too late to start the lawsuits. Maybe they are strapped for cash at Google…

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