I retired in April 2013 after 25 years as a librarian at the British Library specialising in inventions. This included running numerous workshops; writing books on inventions and a work blog; carrying out searches for clients; and one-to-one meetings with inventors. [more]


5 April 2014

Google's trade mark application for "Glass"

Google has been trying to get a trade mark for the word "Glass", I hear. In July 2013 they applied for it for...

Computer software for setting up, configuring, and controlling wearable computer hardware; wearable computer hardware; wearable computer peripherals

...all in Class 9. You register for one or more classes of goods or services, not for everything. It was in a stylised fount, as shown below.

It was rejected, and Google appealed in a letter over 1,928 pages long, though much of that was copies of news articles. The letter can be read by selecting the "20 March 2014 Paper correspondence incoming" (and how ! at that size) on the official electronic file page for Google's "Glass" application. That, in turn, I found by finding the application itself in the very valuable (and free) tmquest database by Minesoft, which is easy to use. I asked for Glass as a trade mark and Google as owner, and clicked on "Legal status" at the top of the full entry. There is a tab for "Documents".

Anyone with the time can read the full file, but briefly the US Patent and Trademark Office argued that the mark was descriptive. The reply was that the "glass" is actually titanium and plastic, so it wasn't. My own thoughts are that using a common noun by itself is not distinctive enough -- how short can a trade mark be ? A German who tried to register an exclamation mark apparently found that it needed to be somewhat longer.

I learnt about the application in today's Daily Telegraph, and what made me choke in my cornflakes was the headline: "Google can't patent "Glass" whatever font they write in, says US officials". They are not actually trying to patent the word, they are trying to register a trade mark for it. In the UK at least (I think they are more savvy in the USA) many journalists think the words used in intellectual property, such as patent, trade mark and copyright, are interchangeable. These words are not: they are used, respectively, for a technical invention; words or logos for goods of services; and for literary, artistic or musical creation. I remember once a journalist phoning me to get, he said, the right wording on an invention story. I dictated to him the wording he should use, but at some point this was altered so that the printed story didn't make any sense. Oh well, I had tried (and at least I was not credited as the source).

Google had already applied, in September 2012, to register Google Glass. This has been opposed and is awaiting a hearing at the office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board [the US uses the spelling trademark, the UK trade mark]. This is stated in the electronic file page for the "Google Glass" application. Incidentally, the Daily Telegraph article said "the company has already trademarked the term "Google Glass"", but this is not true.

Many people think that a search on Google will find them everything hidden away on the Web, but in this case, as in many others, expert help is needed to get at the facts.

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