What do Google, Kleenex, Band-Aids, Jell-O, Q-Tips, and Xerox all have in common? They’re all trademarked terms that are commonly used to refer to everyday items or tasks.
The search engine’s dominance and success has led its own brand name to become synonymous with search. In fact, this year the term “google” was added to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a transitive verb with the lower case “g”. The dictionary defines it as: “to use the Google search engine to obtain information (as a person) on the World Wide Web”.
But to much of the world, to “google” something not only refers to searching on Google, it is understood to mean to search for information online using any search engine.
Google is not too happy about this usage of the word, and has recently taken to publicly scolding the masses on the Official Google Blog:
A trademark is a word, name, symbol or device that identifies a particular company’s products or services. 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 youâ€™re actually referring to Google Inc. and our services.
Here are some hopefully helpful examples.
Usage: ‘Google’ as noun referring to, well, us. Â
Example: “I just love Google, they’re soooo cute and cuddly and adorable and awesome!”
Our lawyers say: Good. Very, very good. There’s no question here that you’re referring to Google Inc. as a company. Use it widely, and hey, tell a friend.
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.”
Usage: ‘Google’ as verb referring to searching for information via any conduit other than Google. Â
Example: “I googled him on Yahoo and he seems pretty interesting.”
Our lawyers say: Bad. Very, very bad. You can only “Google” on the Google search engine. If you absolutely must use one of our competitors, please feel free to “search” on Yahoo or any other search engine.
In my opinion, Google doesn’t need to be scolding us like little childen. Like the companies mentioned above, whose brand names have also become synonymous with everyday things, Google will not suffer as a result. In fact, I would go so far as to say that Google should be honored that they’ve become not just a brand name, but also a verb. Doesn’t that say something for what they’ve accomplished? I think so.