Google wants people to stop googling

Company wants to protect its brand by cracking down on the use of "google" as a generic verb for searching the Internet.

Google has said it intends to crack down on the use of its name as a generic verb, in phrases such as "to google someone."

The Internet search giant said such phrases were potentially damaging to its brand.

"We think it's important to make the distinction between using the word 'Google' to describe using Google to search the Internet and using the word 'google' to generally describe searching the Internet. It has some serious trademark issues," a representative for the search company said.

Julie Coleman, an authority on linguistics from the University of Leicester, said she could understand Google's concerns.

"The prestige associated with a trademark is lost if people use it generically, so I do see Google's point. They also do lots more than just search, so maybe they're reluctant for their brand name to be restricted in this way," Coleman said.

But Coleman added that once new words enter into common usage, it is impossible to stop their use.

"Google can't possibly stop the spread of the verb," Coleman said. "Normal people are using it in normal conversation and in writing, and they aren't likely to face legal proceedings."

What Google could do, said Coleman, is "force dictionaries to mention its origin in a trademarked brand name, which is what the Oxford English Dictionary already does."

Even if Google's attempts to stop this misuse of its trademark turn out to be in vain, many argue it shouldn't even be trying.

Members of the blogging community have suggested it is a sign that Google is losing its once-cool facade and that the search giant is taking itself too seriously.

One blogger also suggested Google has missed the obvious compliment in all this, which is that the use is evidence the company now owns the search industry.

"This should be the ultimate compliment, and I cannot believe Google sees it differently," blogger and computing graduate Frank Gruber wrote.

Steve Rubel, another blogger, branded it "one of the worst PR moves in history."

Morgan McLintic, a PR executive based in the heart of Silicon Valley, said Google should certainly learn when to love its addition to the English language.

"'Googling' is already common parlance for searching on the Internet," McLintic wrote. "And there is only one place you go to 'google,' so this is a good thing for Google with a capital 'G'. The media's use of the verb is simply a reflection of everyday use."

Google's move reflects the concerns of other businesses, such as Xerox, which has complained that its brand has become a generic term for photocopying respectively. Apple Computer is also taking action to defend "iPod."

AOL is another technology company that has fought the tendency of brands to become generic. It has contacting media outlets in the past over the use of "instant messenger" to describe any IM application, claiming that to be its brand.

Will Sturgeon of reported from London.

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