Protection in naming: Branducts also on the Internet

Under the light of this phenomenon, stronger brands which command or lead a category may be involved in cases of generic names with no defense, if they do not watch the correct and legal use of their brand from the start. Those are the so called “cannibalization” or vulgarization cases, and they are at risk of becoming generic names of the category they created or liberated at the time: The Aspirina, a Mistol (washing-up liquid), a Kleenex (tissue), a Thermo, the Jacuzzi, the Tiritas (bad-aids), a Velcro, a ColaCao (chocolate drink), a tres-en-uno (lubricating oil), etc. are some examples. These are brandnames that ended up naming a whole category in Spanish.

It now seems that superbrand Google’s time has come: Mr. Elliot, a peculiar and brave character from Phoenix (Arizona), is determined to legally achieve that the name Google ends up being a generic name meaning “search on the Internet” … (!). If he managed to legally fulfill his aim (which will not be cheap or easy), that would imply dispossessing Google – de facto- of their brand, with a serious risk of confusion and copy for their users. Elliott has justified his legal cause on the evidence that over 750 webs already contain the word Google, as a name or as a verb. Elliott may now add to that the recent opinion and report by the American Dialect Society, who define Google as “the word of the decade” and openly acknowledge the word as a synonym of “search on the Internet”.

We need to add the difficulty and new possibility granted by the ICANN since May 2012 of increasing the already classic Internet registers (.com, .net, etc.) with other new and different domain lgTB types (.marca, etc.). That will cause the big global brands to become more vulnerable, unless they defend themselves and invest budgets on meaningful brand protection (probably hundreds of thousands of dollars) to face them.

An interesting case of lively legal debate is then started, where our brandnames will need to be better watched, protected and defended, as well as preventively and strategically block the highest number possible of surrounding names. Both on the Internet and off-net. Watch your names’ use and applications. Once the fact of being a generic name has been proved, it might already be too late.

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