Was Google’s Unexpected Move To Create Alphabet About ‘Genericization’?18/08/2015 by Catherine Saez, Intellectual Property Watch 1 CommentShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and subscribing to our service helps support our goals of bringing more transparency to global IP and innovation policies. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You also have the opportunity to offer additional support to your subscription, or to donate.When Google announced on 10 August that it was creating an umbrella organisation called Alphabet, encompassing Google itself and its many satellite companies, word spread like fire. The unexpected move left everybody guessing, and some thinking about Google’s effort to protect its valuable brand and keep its name from becoming a generic term for searching the internet. Google in a press release said the “newer Google is a bit slimmed down,” and focused on its main internet products. The other interests of former Google, such as life sciences, are to be managed by “a strong CEO who runs each business,” while Google, still the heavyweight, “will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet.”Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, explained in the release that they liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters, representing one of humanity’s most important innovations: language, and because it also means alpha-bet, with Alpha being investment return above benchmark.However, some ponder if this move is not meant to also deflect the risk for Google to become a victim of its own success and see its name become generic.According to the New York Times, Google is one of the most valuable brands in the world, and while “the company vigilantly defends its trademark, both in and out of court,” given its popularity, it may only be a matter of time before it becomes generic.Many products have lost the ability to be trademarked after their success made them enter mainstream language, such as piña colada, escalator, thermos, cellophane, or walkman.Google lists its trademarks online here. The issue of its name becoming generic has been discussed for years, such as in this 2010 article titled, “Generification: When Google Becomes google”.The word google, according to the NYT story, was derived from the mathematical term googol, which means a large number beginning with the number one followed by 100 zeros.Page and Brin in the release said, “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.”According to Brand Finance, a United Kingdom brand valuation and strategy consultancy, the move by Google might be motivated by legal concerns. In a press release last week, the group said, “Google is attracting more and more negative attention, whether as a result of lack of transparency, invasion of privacy or anti-trust concerns.”Google has a brand worth $76.683 billion, making it the world’s third most valuable after Apple ($128 billion) and Samsung ($82 billion), Brand Finance said.“Under the new structure there is likely to be more information about Google’s revenue streams, improving its accountability to shareholders and appeasing regulators,” the release said. The “point plays into branding too, if one part of the company is dragged through the mud, the risk of contagion is lessened if it is branded differently.” Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedCatherine Saez may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."Was Google’s Unexpected Move To Create Alphabet About ‘Genericization’?" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.