On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to review a legal challenge that the term “google” has become too generic and therefore should not be protected by trademark. The lawsuit was brought by Chris Gillespie who had registered 763 domain names that included the word “google.” Google Inc. filed a cybersquatting complaint under the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy and claimed trademark infringement. Mr. Gillespie lost and was ordered to forfeit the domains. He appealed but lost on all court levels.
His lawsuit alleged that the word “google” had become synonymous with the term “search the Internet.” When words become too generic, companies that hold trademark rights to them lose those rights. This phenomenon is known as “genericide.” Words like teleprompter, thermos, hoover, aspirin, and videotape were once trademarked but lost the legal trademark status after they became too generic.
That’s why Velcro last month came up with a video urging consumers to stop calling the stuff “velcro” unless it is officially a product of the Velcro Companies. They, too, are worried they’ll fall victims to genericide and lose their Velcro trademark.