Alphabet: Google spells out its reasons -- but does this also spell trouble?

The news that online search-and-services giant Google was cultivating an alter ego for itself by opting for the name Alphabet for restructured holding company received less attention than one might have expected, probably because (i) it's August and so many people are on holiday (or just pretending) and (ii) Google have sprung so many surprises on us in recent years that we have lost our ability to find anything Google does newsworthy any more. Be that as it may, this Kat thanks Katfriend and one-time guest Kat Miri Frankel for penning the following note:
Google is no stranger to IP law.  In the US alone, it holds
·         78 registered trade marks for Google word and style marks
·         More than 400 registered trade marks for word and style marks across all of its properties (e.g. Nest, YouTube, Songza)
·         More than 1,500 registered patents
·         More than 2,600 patent applications
In addition, the company has conducted consumer trade mark education to prevent genericide, reminding people that they are “searching the web on Google,” not “googling.”  Might this have been in Google’s mind when it chose to restructure its business by creating a new parent holding company with the non-too-distinctive name Alphabet?  Many companies already trade under the name Alphabet or something similar to it, including a subsidiary of BMW, which owns the URL (Google’s Alphabet will use the URL As reported here:

The name isn’t just causing waves with BMW. On Wall Street, there is an Alphabet Funds. Lots of midsize and small companies also use the name Alphabet. There is an Alphabet Energy in Hayward, Calif.; an Alphabet Record Company in Austin, Tex.; an Alphabet Plumbing in Prescott, Ariz.; and numerous preschools, inns and restaurants with some variation of the name.”
While some have joked that perhaps Google forgot to google search on Google for the name Alphabet before selecting the name, this guest Kat does not doubt that Google was aware of the many pre-existing Alphabet businesses, including BMW’s, but chose to proceed nonetheless.Larry Page explains why they chose this name in his letter on Alphabet’s website:

We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha‑bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for!”
Google's new corporate HQ?
Will Google (I mean Alphabet) be able to use this name without significant risk of trade mark disputes?  Probably.  While Alphabet is not generic or descriptive of the goods or services, nor is it hugely distinctive as a trade name.  The sheer number of businesses using Alphabet as a trade name or as part of a trade name minimizes the risk of consumer confusion: consumers are used to seeing multiple Alphabets in various industries. In addition, Alphabet itself will not be providing commercial goods or services; its subsidiaries, including Google, Nest, and Calico, will be consumer brands housed under the holding company umbrella of Alphabet.  As Larry Page explains, 
we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products—the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.” 
Subsidiary [x] may be developing a self-driving car using Google software, but BMW can rest assured that [x]’s self-driving car is unlikely to be marketed under the competing brand name of Alphabet.
Alphabet: Google spells out its reasons -- but does this also spell trouble? Alphabet: Google spells out its reasons -- but does this also spell trouble? Reviewed by Jeremy on Saturday, August 15, 2015 Rating: 5


  1. The announcement of Alphabet reminds me of some incidents in the past:
    1. When I was with the predecessor of Ladas & Parry, acting for Polaroid Corporation, its founder Edwin Land announced a new camera which he said he would call ALADDIN. We went crazy filing applications to register ALADDIN for cameras and film in every jurisdiction we could, as quickly as we could (using Telex and cable at that time), and then making searches and dealing with whatever problems were encountered. ALADDIN was never used, and the camera and film went under the code name used in the secret development phase - SX-70, which we registered everywhere. ALADDIN was never used.
    2. The Coca-Cola Company surprised everyone with NEW COKE, with a change in their traditional flavor. It was an absolute disaster and the company quickly introduced COKE CLASSIC, which was the same juice as before, and that is what they sell today. They wished that they had heeded the maxim: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."
    3. United Airlines changed its name to a three letter word, possibly EOS, the goddess of the dawn. I did not work. As Rance Crain, of Crain' Chicago Business, said, they asked the chairman to parachute out of the cockpit of the company.
    4. As a part of the outside worldwide IP counsel team for a major corporation, we were surprised when the company announced a name change to something entirely new, without asking any advice whatsoever.

  2. Nothing spotted yet in the DPMA database.

    But there is a prior trademark "ABC/XYZ" to one "PSI Metals Non Ferrous GmbH" in Aachen, which includes "Software" in Nice class 09.


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