Apple Using Google as a Verb




Every branding professional you’ll meet will tell you that you never ever refer to your brand as a verb. Phrases like “I Googled that” or “I Xeroxed this” are poison to the ears of those who understand trademark law.

Without getting into the intricacies of trademark law (which I don’t fully understand anyways), the short explanation is that you should only reference your trademark as an adjective. An example of a properly used trademark would be “Google™ Search Engine”.

With this in mind, I was a little surprised recently when going through my iPhone to find Google business partner Apple using Google as a verb.

Let me explain. The iPhone has a keyboard which pops up every time you position your cursor in a field which allows you to enter text. This includes your browser address bar, web forms, search fields, emails, etc.

Every time you’re in the keyboard pop-up there is a button in the bottom right hand corner of the keyboard which allows you to select an action. The button action may vary, but the text is always used to describe an action (aka verb). Some examples are….

“Go” – Select the enter or finish button on a web form -or- go to a URL typed into the browser address bar.
“Return” – Enter a return carriage in a string of text
“Google” – Perform a search on the Google™ search engine.

To me this seems like the use of Google as a verb since the “Google” button performs the action of a web search. When people refer to Google as a verb it is usually in this very context (Example: “I am going to Google Ron Paul”). I definitely don’t think Apple’s use of Google’s trademark is as an adjective, so at the very least it’s a violation of Google’s trademark guidelines.

Now I doubt this will prove to be any threat to Google protecting its mark, but it is a lesson every marketer should take to heart. When partnering with other companies always review content produced about your mark to make sure it is compliant with your trademark guidelines. It does you no good to combat the improper use of your mark when your BFF is going around encouraging everyone to use it as a verb.

If you haven’t researched how to properly protect your mark, I would recommend you get up to speed on the topic immediately. A little work now can pay off big if anyone tries to take your mark or push you off your domain!

  • http://www.marketingpilgrim.com Andy Beal

    Considering Eric Schmidt is on Apple’s board, I’m sure there won’t be any repercussions. ;-)

  • http://www.Daxle.net Brian

    Todays Goal: Use ‘Pilgrim’ as a verb. (To the disdain of English teachers everywhere)

    “…I bet their pages views went up today since they were pilgrimmed…”

    :)

  • http://www.e3internet.com Nick Wilsdon

    I guess the test is whether the iPhone lets you ‘Google’ using any other provider? If not then Google are probably OK with this usage.

    From their blog:

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/do-you-google.html

    Usage: ‘Google’ as verb referring to searching for information on, um, Google.

    Example: “I googled him on the well-known website Google.com and he seems pretty interesting.”

    Our lawyers say: Well, we’re happy at least that it’s clear you mean searching on Google.com. As our friends at Merriam-Webster note, to “Google” means “to use the Google search engine to find information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web.”

    I see what you are saying though, it does encourage usage as a verb.

  • What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

    You reminded me why I hate lawyers. If a strategic partner names one of their widgets on your trademark and it in fact leverages the product with the trademark, you are clearly winning. That partner is embedding your trademark in their product, making it more difficult to remove it later as a design decision. This strengthens the partnership and the association of your product with the utility of the widget. It’s all good. If the partner suddenly renames the widget or allows the widget to do something else, then you better get on the stick, because the partnership is in trouble.

  • http://www.dotcomsecrets.com Internet Marketing Joy

    I’m also guilty of using Google as a verb for search. ^^..

    I would always say “I will google it..etc.”

    For me, using google instead of search makes it more generic and easy to understand.

  • http://www.giganews.com David Vogelpohl

    I hate to rain on my own parade, but after a conversation with a friend at lunch it appears Google has commented on this indirectly.

    In the post below (pointed my way by Seth Wilde) Google discusses how the use of the verb “google” is okay when referring to a search on the Google search engine.

    Clearly this is the case in the iPhone example.

    http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/do-you-google.html

    I guess this is one observation which required a bit more digging :)

  • http://www.wpromote.com/blog Mike Mothner

    I was surprised to think of google becoming a very as a detriment to the company. If anything, I would think that the “verbization” of Google is not harmful to Google, but in fact goes to show how much people depend on the search engine. Everyone understands its meaning as having performed an online search. Clearly it shows Google’s dominance online because if I ever heard someone say I’m going to go yahoo that I would think they’re crazy.

  • Eduardo Fenili

    I have spoken with a few people on the Trademark team at Google and the talk is the same as stated above. So long as people use it as a Verb only to mean using the Google search engine then all is gravy.

    Now if Google started to get used in terms of just searching the internet in general that is a bad thing…truth is that probably won’t ever happen. And Google is used so much more frequently than any other search when anyone says Google it you are probably 99.9% sure they mean go to Google.com

  • http://www.gowfb.com/ GoWFB

    This is proof that the word google is just so firmly entrenchedi in everyone’s lexicon!

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  • http://payday-loans-i.com Paul Brain

    Newest English language :)

  • http://www.blogcontentprovider.com Allen Taylor

    It actually benefits Google to use their name as a verb simply because of it’s market dominance. It wouldn’t benefit Marketing Pilgrim to use Pilgrim as a verb nor would it benefit Yahoo! or MSN Live. If the verb form doesn’t easily roll off the tongue then you’ll just look stupid trying it. Allowing people to use “Google” as a verb creates top-of-mind awareness for their product. How can they lose?

    The only way Google could lose on this is if the verb form of the name remains in the conscience of searchers even after Google loses market dominance (should that ever happen) AND if it is used to describe searches at any search platform.