In 2014, in the District Court of Arizona, a judge ruled that “Google” was not a generic term and was eligible to receive trademark protection in Elliott v. Google. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. In 2011, Forbes estimated that the “Google” trademark was worth $113 Billion; the trademark is worth more now in 2018 and the company’s trademark is likely its most valuable asset. The suit first ensued when Elliott purchased over 700 domain names with the word “Google” and after the company had successfully won a name dispute, Elliott filed to cancel “Google” trademarks. Elliott claimed that Google was a generic term and should not receive trademark protection. The Ninth Circuit’s ruling in this case will most definitely affect companies and entrepreneurs of all sizes, perhaps giving companies more protection than they were afforded in the past; what some are calling an unintended consequence.
Recently, Google added new functionality to the Google Arts & Culture app that allows users to snap a selfie and find artwork from around the world that resembles the user. The app very quickly rose to the top of the charts as users around the United States took plenty of photos. Almost everywhere around the United States at least. Illinois and a few other states have laws that prohibit the collection or use of biometric (iris, fingerprint, etc.) data by businesses except under certain circumstances. The Google Arts & Culture app uses biometric data to compare a user’s image to the Mona Lisa (or any other portrait).
Google answered Amazon’s Echo Dot by recently launching their own pint-sized smart speaker, the Google Home Mini. Recently, Google was forced to disable one of the features on the Home Mini after it was discovered that a technical glitch led to near 24/7 audio recording. Google responded quickly and appropriately, investigating the cause and quickly releasing an update to disable the hardware responsible for the glitch. The Equifax hack – a breach of personal data including social security numbers, driver’s license information, and other credit details – exposed nearly half the country and waited months to respond. Upcoming European legislation that can significantly impact American companies with European Union clients may be part of the reason for their drastically different responses.