Did Google's parent Alphabet infringe BMW's trademark rights?

  • Reuters, Frankfurt
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 13:25 IST
People are silhouetted as they pose with laptops in front of a screen projected with a Google logo. Photo: Reuters

BMW said on Tuesday it was looking into whether Google infringed any trademark rights after the technology giant set up a new parent company called Alphabet, which is also the name of a BMW subsidiary.

"We are examining whether there are any implications over trademarks," a BMW spokesperson said on Tuesday. The spokespserson said there were currently no plans to take legal steps against Google.

BMW's Alphabet, which provides services to companies with vehicle fleets, operates in 18 countries and supplies 530,000 vehicles to corporate customers.

Silicon Valley-based Google was not immediately available for comment.

A legal dispute is unlikely since Google made clear in its announcement on Monday that in creating a parent company called Alphabet Inc, it was not intending to build products and brands under that name.

Read:5 things you must know about Google's transformation into Alphabet

Google has picked a name that is a fairly common brand among American businesses. There are currently 103 trademark registrations in the United States that include the word "alphabet" or some close variation, according to a database search of the US Patent and Trademark Office.

To prove a trademark infringement, a trademark owner would have to show that the new Alphabet created a "likelihood of confusion" among consumers between the two brands. This could occur if both brands offered similar goods and services.

But in making the announcement, Larry Page, a Google co-founder and CEO of the new Alphabet, 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."

The name was chosen, Page said, because the alphabet represents language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the "core of how we index" in a Google Internet search.

Google has a lot of experience with legal troubles over intellectual property. The world's largest internet search provider is a frequent target by companies claiming it is violating their patents.

The company is also locked in a copyright battle with Oracle Corp over royalties for the use of the Java programming language, which is incorporated into Google's Android operating system for smartphones.

(With agency inputs)

Also read: How employees reacted to Google’s sudden restructuring

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