A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the particular source of a product. A service mark does the same thing with respect to the source of services. An owner of a mark can control its use, including preventing others from using the mark without permission.
A mark can become generic based on widespread use to generally describe the product or services. Trademarks that have become generic with respect to their common usage include “elevator,” “thermos,” “aspirin,” and “granola.”
Google, Inc. holds several registered trademarks and service marks containing the word “Google.” On appeal from a federal Ninth Circuit decision, petitioners David Elliott and Chris Gillespie are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the term “google” has become generic as it relates to the act of searching for something on the Internet. Among other questions, the Court is being asked to consider whether verb usage of a trademark (i.e., the terms “googled,” “googling”) is generic usage as a matter of law.
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