Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Googling and Hoovering

Could Google be a victim of its own success?  Even going back to an episode of Sex and the City, Google has been used as a verb for “type into a search engine box and click for search results”.  Much has been written on the topic.  Even Wikipedia has an entry discussing Google as a verb and noting that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006, to Google’s chagrin.

Compared with other marks that risk becoming generic through verb or noun use, I think Google’s going to be okay, for two reasons: (1) it is a virtual category killer.  Come on, how many of you are using Bing for your search engine needs?   How about Alta Vista?  Dogpile?  OK, sometimes I do choose Yahoo, because the search engine page has little news snippets that I like to read when I’m plugging in my search terms.  But I really do believe that the vast majority of people who google are actually using GOOGLE (R) brand search engine services.  (2) Google knew enough not to limit itself only to search services and keyword ads, and has branched out into wide variety of other areas, including voice services, email, free legal research services (YAY!) and soon, mobile phones the likes of which will compete with the iPhone.  So no need to sob for Google.

As for Hoover – did you know that in the U.K. “hoovering” is a term that means “vacuuming”?  Even Dan Brown used this term in The Da Vinci Code.  I entered “hoovering” into my Google search engine box and found that defines “hoover” as follows:

“–verb (used with object) (often initial capital letter) Chiefly British.


 to clean with a vacuum cleaner.

1925–30; after the trademark of a vacuum cleaner manufacturer”
To think: we in the US think of Hoover as another vacuum cleaner brand, just like Electrolux or Dyson (well, maybe not like Dyson).  But across the pond, people are using their Dyson vacuum cleaners to hoover all over the place.

December 17, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , ,

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