Larry, Sergey, Eric: Matt Marshall and I are putting you on notice. This “Google Beat” thing is going too far. VentureBeat is mad as hell, and we’re not taking it anymore. This is our official notice to the triumvirate ruling Google that the gloves are off.
Not just off, but OffBeat.
Sure, Google Beat is just the name for a fluffy Web video series for what people are searching for on Google. But VentureBeat, which has already expanded its coverage under the MobileBeat, GamesBeat, and GreenBeat monikers, among others, could decide to focus like a fricking laser beam on Google. And then what would we call that coverage? GoogleBeat, of course.
We’re not saying that we’re siccing our lawyers — um, wait, make that lawyer, singular — on the mighty armies of Google’s legal department. But we don’t think it’s fair for the monolith of Mountain View to crowd our beat.
In pursuing this cause, we’re merely staying current with intellectual-property trends. If Facebook can seek to trademark both the words “Face” and “Book,” surely VentureBeat can stake a claim to both “Venture” and “Beat.”
Heck, while we’re at it, we might try to snap up “Ven” and “Ture.” Those syllables are ours!
Kidding! In reality, Facebook has a singularly weak case in staking its claim to such basic words. Trademarks must be distinctive, a Harvard guide to trademark law notes, and generic terms on their own are generally not protected by trademark.
So why is Facebook trying anyway? It’s likely trying to protect its own name from what trademark lawyers call “genericide” — the process by which distinctive terms become generic in everyday usage, like “xerox” for a photocopy or “kleenex” for a facial tissue.
Google itself has struggled with genericide, issuing a set of guidelines about the use of the Google trademark. Sometimes they get a bit fussy:
One of the conditions for all uses is that you can’t mess around with our marks. Only we get to do that. Don’t remove, distort or alter any element of a Google Brand Feature. That includes modifying a Google trademark, for example, through hyphenation, combination or abbreviation, such as: Googliscious, Googlyoogly, GaGooglemania. Do not shorten, abbreviate, or create acronyms out of Google trademarks.
Great googly moogly.
Tell you what, Google Trademark Cops: You stay off our beat, and we won’t mess around with your marks. Too much.
P.S. Hey, ChartBeat — we’ve got our eyes on you, too, punks.