We knew it. It was just a matter of time before Google's trademark lawyers freaked out over the growing usage of the word Google as a verb meaning to search online. The unhappy attorneys are now firing off letters to media organizations about the issue, and threating legal action.
Search engine giant Google has sent off a series of legal letters to media organizations, warning them against using its name as a verb.
The California-based company is becoming concerned about trademark violation, with a spokesman confirming that it had sent the letters, saying, "We think it's important to make the distinction between using the word Google to describe using Google to search the internet, and using the word Google to describe searching the internet. It has some serious trademark issues."
In June, Google won a place in the Oxford English Dictionary, while "to google", with a lower case "g", was included last month in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, America's leading reference book.
Meanwhile, the online service WordSpy, defines "google" as: "To search for information on the Web, particularly by using the Google search engine; to search the Web for information related to a new or potential girlfriend or boyfriend." This is also what pops up first if you type "googling" into Google.
In an attempt to protect the company's trademark, the letters have raised sneers after they were leaked on to the web, with bloggers making fun of the examples Google's lawyers deem acceptable. They included: "Appropriate: I ran a Google search to check out that guy from the party. Inappropriate: I googled that hottie."
However, according to the Independent's report, eyebrows may be raised, too, in the publishing and media industries, which are worried about Google's encroachment on their intellectual property via its Google News pages and its plan to put every book ever published on to the web.
It's a valid concern. If the verb "google" becomes common parlance, meaning to use any search engine to search on the Web, Google, Inc. could lose its exclusive rights to its own name and logo. Now, if only Google would recognize the valid concerns of the Authors Guild -- that its members' copyrights are being infringed upon with the Google bookscanning project -- perhaps it would get more cooperation from authors. Right now, we expect lots of new novels to feature characters "googling" all kinds of things. And when they say "google," they'll mean "searching the Internet using Yahoo to find out information on a given topic." Ouch. Payback is not pretty.