ALPHABET vs. ALPHABET

alphabetsFormation of Alphabet Inc., the new parent Company, which will now house Google along with its other small entities like Calico Labs and Nest Labs, has indeed come as a huge surprise to everyone.

In 1998, Google Inc. was founded by Larry Page and Sergey Brin with the aim “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”[1] However with the introduction of Android, Google Ventures, moonshot projects,and multiple acquisitions, it has branched out into diverse fields creating some sort of identity crisis for the Company which when started was only connected with information and advertisements.Therefore in an effort to make their Company (Google Inc.) more clean and accountable, Alphabet Inc. is founded. However one cannot but be surprised with the name by which the newly founded Company will be known i.e.‘Alphabet’. The reason being, that BMW, renowned German car manufacturing Company, already owns a trademark for ‘Alphabet’ for its subsidiary,Alphabet International GmbH,as well as the domain name www.alphabet.com. This BMW owned subsidiary has its operations in at least 18 countries and its comprehensive portfolio includes consulting and funding as well as smart management products and services for company fleets.[2] According to a BMW spokesperson, Alphabet International GmbH is a very active component of BMW group and they have no intention of selling their trademark.

A Trademark can be defined as a mark which is capable of distinguishing the goods and services of one person from those of others. They indicate the source of goods and services, and thereby protect the customers from being deceived. However this does not mean that two enterprises cannot have the same trademark. Same marks may be registered provided there is no likelihood of confusion in the minds of the consumers and that the second registration is with respect to different goods and services. In fact a simple database search of United States Patent and Trademark Office will reveal that there are more than100 registrations for the mark ‘Alphabet’, used for different businesses. However if the former mark is a famous mark, then registration for the same mark will not be possible even with respect to different goods and services. The reason being that if a famous mark is not protected from unauthorized use then a section of public that use goods and services with such mark may get confused on seeing the same trademark applied to others goods and services of another person.

As Larry Page explains in his announcement, the name ‘Alphabet’ was chosen because it implies a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how they index with Google search. Also ‘Alphabet’ signifies alpha‑bet, meaning investment return above benchmark, which they strive for.

Larry Page also stated that they will not be selling their goods and services under the brand of Alphabet, which will surely pacify the BMW group who are already investigating if any trademark infringement has taken place. Page announced that they were not intending for Alphabet to be a big consumer brand with related products, but the whole point was that Alphabet companies would have independence and develop their own brands. Besides, if BMW does take an action against Alphabet Inc., then one cannot help but wonder why they have not taken an action against numerous other enterprises that are carrying on their business initiatives under the said name.

The Google Self-Driving Car is a project by Google X that involves developing technology for autonomous cars, mainly electric cars. [3]; BMW too has partnered with Baidu Inc., a Chinese firm,to release a self-driving car by the end of the year.[4] However confusion between the two is unlikely because the former will be marketed under the Google brand, while in the latter case the car will be marketed under the BMW brand.Hence in order to prove a case of trademark infringement, BMW Group will have to show that the use of the mark is ‘likely to create confusion’ in the minds of the consumers between the two brands which seems unlikely in question.

As far as domain names are concerned, Alphabet Inc. has cleverly chosen abc.xyz as their domain name, the reason being that the rights to alphabet.com already vest with BMW’s Alphabet. However despite the said precaution there has been a great influx of traffic to BMW’s website www.alphabet.com since the announcement about Alphabet Inc.The decision to use .xyz domain has ended up benefiting the Domain Company XYZ, who have seen a marked increase in the registration of .xyz domains since Alphabet’s decision to use the same.

[1]About Google, Wikipedia, available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google[2]Alphabet International GmbH, Linkedin profile, available at: https://www.linkedin.com/company/alphabet-international[3]About Google driverless car, Wikipedia, available at:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_driverless_car[4]About BMW developing self-driving-cars in partnership with Baidu Inc. available at:http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/jun/10/baidu-could-beat-google-self-driving-car-bmw

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