Aug 12th, 2015

G is for Google

We’re only a couple of short days removed from Google’s big announcement of Alphabet, a new holding company which acts as the umbrella for all of the things they do. People are still talking about it being an innovative move for the company, which has grown from a garage-housed search engine to a multi-billion dollar technology and web giant.

You can read more about why Alphabet was made here. But today’s rumblings about the new company aren’t all good. Google has caught the attention of many-a business owner who already use Alphabet for their company name, though many of them are small and likely have little room to challenge Google in the courtrooms.

There is one big competitor, however. BMW actually owns a subsidiary call Alphabet. In fact, they’re the owners of the domain Google probably would have preferred to snap up, Alphabet.com (which is down because people are hammering their servers thanks to Google). The company provides platform services to companies who need to deploy and track company vehicles. The name is also trademarked.

bmw alphabet

A trademark alone doesn’t put Google in a tough spot. Alphabet is a common english-language word, after all. But if two businesses are too similar, whoever owns the trademark for the name has a strong case in court for forcing the other to change theirs.

Google and BMW are very different companies, and their versions of Alphabet serve very different purposes, but Google is doing a lot of work in the automotive industry as of late, including the development of driverless vehicles and an Android-based infotainment platform. That alone could be enough for BMW to draw enough parallels to form a trademark infringement case.

For their part, though, they aren’t moving too swiftly. The company’s legal team is apparently closely examining whether there’s any infringement taking place. Whatever they end up finding, they did confirm that they are in no way interested in giving up the domain or name to Google as Alphabet has become a very integral part of their business. They also confirmed Google hadn’t contacted them at all in regards to using the name or trying to acquire the domain.

The domain issues shouldn’t be of much concern for Google — they seem quite happy with the whole abc.xyz thing, and it’s probably going to be little more than a corporate landing page in due time — but having to change a name they’re passionate about could become quite messy. We’ll be keeping an eye out to see if this spawns the next interesting legal battle in tech.

[via NY Times]

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