A Descriptive Name Is a Pain to Trademark, Even if You’re Google Glass

In Branding News by Distility0 Comments

As you may have noticed, the internet has been buzzing with updates regarding a disputed U.S. trademark application filed by Google, for their yet-to-be-made-public wearable computing device, Google Glass. Given that part of our work at Distility® is naming strategy, we’ve found this story to be pretty interesting.

What’s Been Happening?

Since last year, Google (which owns the federal claim to “Google Glass”) has been trying to lock down a U.S. trademark for the shortened product name “Glass,” so it can have a clear, one-word mark. But this effort was blocked by a U.S. trademark examiner, who felt this word was fodder for consumer confusion, due to its use in other software trademarks. The examiner also indicated that “Glass” is merely descriptive of the product – even if it appears in marketing as a recognizable wordmark – and is in turn a less-than-worthy trademark candidate.

As per The Wall Street Journal, Google’s trademark attorneys disputed the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office objection, claiming in a near-2,000-page letter (!) that consumer confusion wouldn’t occur, due to the press Glass has received in recent years. They also argued that “Glass” is not, in fact, descriptive in that the word doesn’t describe the titanium or plastic actually used in the frame, nor the true function of the device – that it is therefore distinctive. But it seems as if this retort has done little to push things forward for the search colossus.

What We Think About It

Okay – the term “Glass” may not describe the specific materials of the frame, but it’s hard to feel like it’s distinctive. Really, it’s semi-descriptive. “Glass” embodies the simple fact that this wearable computing device is – at the end of the day – worn as a pair of glasses. And that makes it tough to buy into the idea that “Glass” could be enforced without the Google modifier, as an abstract and highly distinctive one-word trademark, as if it were Apple or Samsung.

That being said, the linguistic intricacies of this dispute are a fascinating rabbit hole. Proceed with caution to read the original Wall Street Journal article here.