As a post today on the Google blog points out, zipper, baby oil, brassiere, trampoline, thermos, cellophane, escalator, elevator, and dry ice made the transition from trademarked term to the vernacular. The same fate awaits GoogleTM, or so the company fears."A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device that identifies a particular company's products or services," Google's Michael Krantz writes in his company's blog. "Google is a trademark identifying Google Inc. and our search technology and services. While we're pleased that so many people think of us when they think of searching the web, let's face it, we do have a brand to protect, so we'd like to make clear that you should please only use 'Google' when you're actually referring to Google Inc. and our services."
Fat chance. It didn't work for Hormel, maker of SpamTM. And it's not going to work for GoogleTM.
While I understand why trademark law exists, and while I recognize that trademark law requires trademark owners to police their trademarks, I nonetheless find trademark law absurd. It's absurd because its goal is so fuzzy and ill-suited to reality.
Trademark law aims to prevent confusion among consumers about the provenance of goods and services. That's a laudable goal when it's applied to deliberate attempts to mislead people with counterfeit goods and services.
But it's a laughable goal when the fault lies with consumers. If, as the Google blog warns against, you write, "I googled him on Yahoo and he seems pretty interesting," you have either a strong sense of humor or an astonishing capacity for cluelessness. Either way, trademark law won't help.