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Google's Alphabet Trademark Issue | DrivingSales News

Does Google’s Alphabet Infringe BMW’s Trademark Rights?

August 12, 2015 0 Comments

 

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Hot on the heels of the big news that Google has created a parent company named Alphabet, it has now been revealed that the internet domain alphabet.com as well as the trademark Alphabet already belong to BMW.

It seems safe to assume that Larry Page and Sergey Brin Googled the name Alphabet before they chose it for their new holding company, so it’s hard to believe that this news comes as a surprise to the two founders of Google. However, the reality is that BMW doesn’t want to sell the trademark or internet domain, which will certainly affect Google’s new entity.

Alphabet is the name that Page and Brin have given the newly created parent entity that will house the Google search business and several smaller companies, such as Nest, a maker of smart thermostats, and Calico, a company focused on increasing human longevity.

However, Alphabet is also the name of a BMW subsidiary that provides services to corporations with vehicle fleets. A spokesperson for BMW has said that the automaker was not informed in advance by Page and Brin about their plans to create a company called Alphabet and that there haven’t been any offers made to buy the internet domain or the trademark.

“We are not planning to sell the domain,” said Micaela Sandstede, a BMW spokesperson in Munich. She described the website as a “very active” part of Alphabet’s business, and explained that BMW is examining whether any trademark infringement has taken place. Although multiple companies can use the same name in certain scenarios, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, trademark infringement occurs if another company’s use could create confusion with consumers. Considering the fact that Google is involved in the auto industry, with a version of Android for use in cars along with its extensive research on self-driving vehicles, the argument could certainly be made for trademark infringement in this case.

“We are examining whether there are any implications over trademarks,” said Sandstede. BMW’s Alphabet, which provides services to companies with vehicle fleets, operates in 18 countries and supplies 530,000 vehicles to corporate customers. However, a legal dispute seems unlikely as Google made it clear in its announcement that it is not intending to build products and brands under the Alphabet name, but is instead only using the name for its parent company.

The name is also causing waves beyond BMW. For example, on Wall Street, there is an Alphabet Funds. And there are many other small and medium-sized companies that use the name Alphabet, including Alphabet Energy in Hayward, California, Alphabet Record Company in Austin, Texas, Alphabet Plumbing in Prescott, Arizona, as well as many preschools, restaurants and inns with some variation of the name.

Some of these smaller businesses are concerned about Google showing up as Alphabet.

Jennifer Blakeley, who registered Alphabet Photography as an online retail store in 2008 to sell printed photos of buildings and natural formations that look like letters, isn’t happy about the situation. Regardless, legal action against Google seems impossible for a small company such as hers. “Who sues Google?” said Blakeley.

Google has declined to comment on the situation, but it seems very likely that we’ll be seeing further developments in the coming days. At this point, the Silicon Valley Alphabet is using the URL abc.xyz. “Don’t worry,” wrote Larry Page on the company’s home page. “We’re still getting used to the name too!”

About the Author:

The DrivingSales News team is dedicated to breaking the relevant and the tough stories affecting car dealers. Have questions for DrivingSales News? Reach the team at news@drivingsales.com.

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