April 4, 2014

"Google Is Having Trouble Trying to Trademark the Word 'Glass.'"

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office indicated...
... that “Glass” — even with its distinctive formatting — is “merely descriptive.” That’s an issue because generic terms don’t have trademark protection under federal law. You couldn’t trademark the word “shoe” for a shoe you’re selling, for instance.
It's not like they tried to trademark "Glasses." If someone looking for his glasses said "Where's my glass?," we'd think he'd misplaced his beverage. Google is using a word that is descriptive of one thing to refer to something else, in the distinctive situation where the something else is normally called what is the plural of the word in question.

It's like as if the first company that wanted to call pants "pant" tried to get a trademark... but no, because "pant" had not previously been a noun that referred to a product.

But — did you know? — there is a regional Scottish and Irish English meaning for "pant" that is a lark or prank —"‘Right,’ says Duffy, ‘bring you Jinnet and I'll tak' my wife, and we'll hae a rale pant.’" — or a rumor — "That's the pant that's going through the country." (Examples from the Oxford English Dictionary, to which I cannot link, from 1904 and a1908, respectively.)

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

G-lass, or G-glass, or Gl-ass, or Geez glass!

Anthony said...

It's not like they tried to trademark "Glasses." If someone looking for his glasses said "Where's my glass?," we'd think he'd misplaced his beverage. Google is using a word that is descriptive of one thing to refer to something else, in the distinctive situation where the something else is normally called what is the plural of the word in question.

It's probably a good thing that monocles went out of fashion before literacy, or we'd have people confusing the corrective eyewear with the drink holder.

David said...

I'd like to say . . . (Sound of rapid respiration.)

Sorry. (More sound) Not now.

yoobee said...

Well, this WSJ author would have gotten major points taken off of my trademark law exam.

It's true that generic terms cannot be trademarked; but that doesn't matter because the trademark examiner said it was merely descriptive. That's a pretty significant distinction: unlike generic marks, which can never be trademarked, descriptive terms can receive protection under certain circumstances, such as if the mark has obtained a special meaning in the minds of consumers. Google can try to prove (e.g., by surveys) that consumers associate the term "Glass" with its product. Or, Google can still argue (as it has been) that "Glass" is not descriptive since the product is not in fact made from glass.

rhhardin said...

Fent

rhhardin said...

Plural attaches to things that are built as a left and right half in mirror image.

Tibore said...

When they made their motto "Do no evil", they forgot to add "Do no asshattery".

mccullough said...

They should call it GooGlass

SteveBrooklineMA said...

I've heard tailors refer to pants as pant. "Here is a fine khaki pant that will go with that jacket." And eyeglass, magnifying glass, and spyglass, are also used. If all three were on a table in front of you, which glass might you look through?

Andy Freeman said...

> That's a pretty significant distinction: unlike generic marks, which can never be trademarked, descriptive terms can receive protection under certain circumstances

Is that how Microsoft got a trademark for Windows?
At the time that trademark was granted (and now), there were dozens of windowing systems, some which included the word "windows", such as X Windows.

Before MS got the "Windows" trademark, they used "Microsoft Windows" in all of their materials.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

Presumably Google can trademark "Google Glass". They just don't want to compete "Apple Glass" or "Microsoft Glass". Glass is what goes into windows.

According to Microsoft's website, "Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries."

So if you can register a trademark for Windows, why not Glass, or is that too confusing?

Mike said...

About time the PTO get some balls and say "NO" to a few more of these abusive asshats.

John Tuffnell said...

"They should call it GooGlass."

Yes. Or GooglAss.

Asshattery all around. Look like an ass trademarking the product and look like an ass wearing the thing.

John Tuffnell said...

"They should call it GooGlass."

Yes. Or GooglAss.

Asshattery all around. Look like an ass trademarking the product and look like an ass wearing the thing.

yoobee said...

@Andy Freeman and @Left Bank of Charles:

I believe you are correct regarding Windows. Microsoft originally applied for trademark protection in the mid 1990s, but they weren't actually able to register the trademark until the early 2000s. By that time, I assume MS was able to show that the term had obtained special meaning to consumers.

The difference here is that Google probably cannot prove that Glass has special meaning, at least not yet. If the Glass product takes off, they will likely be able to get protection for the mark.

Google will probably also register "Google Glass", but as Left Bank noted that is not as valuable as registering "Glass".

Also, I think Glass is less of a descriptive term than Windows, and I think Google has a stronger case for arguing that the term can be protected without needing to prove secondary or special meaning.

Finally, I don't understand why some are upset that Google is trying to obtain trademark protection. Trademarks are subject to limitations based on industry and (in some cases) geography. Google's trademark application is limited to "wearable computer hardware"; it's not as if they are seeking to trademark any use of the term glass for other purposes.

Anonymous said...

"I don't understand why some are upset that Google is trying to obtain trademark protection"

Googl# (TM) is trying to appropriate part of the language and as we know, "He who controls the language controls the masses." (Saul Alinsky)

tim maguire said...

My pants have two pant legs, my glasses have two pieces of glass, and it's a rare victory for common sense in trademark law that Google was not able to trademark "glass" for a pair of glasses.

Alex said...

More than anything - please don't be a Glasshole.

Joe said...

"Glass" is not descriptive since the product is not in fact made from glass.

I suspect that "Google Polycarbonate" lacks a ring.