Google Hit With Trademark Objection

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A children's Web site called Googles has petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel Google's trademark relating to children's products.


Stelor Productions, Darnestown, MD, owner of the Googles.com children's Web site, said July 6 that it filed a petition to cancel Google's registration of the Google mark. It also appealed to the patent office to oppose a trademark application by Google for its trademark to cover other services, including children's books and clothing. The patent office that day had published for opposition a trademark awarded to Google for a range of paraphernalia such as T-shirts and mugs.


Googles.com revolves around the adventures of four animated aliens called "Googles from Goo" who are sent to Earth to teach humans environmental lessons. The company claims 130,000 children have registered for the site. Stelor has expanded Googles from the Web site to include stickers, CDs and toys. In its filing, Stelor claims it has "superior rights" to the mark for children's products.


In its patent office filing, Stelor said consumers would be confused if Google expanded into children's services. The filing notes Googles.com was registered as an Internet domain in July 1997, two months prior to Google.com's registration. Stelor acquired the rights to Googles.com in 2002.


"Googles is trying to say you can have as much of the Internet territory as you want, just stay out of the children's arena," said Michael Neustel, a trademark attorney in Fargo, ND.


Googles claims that confusion with Google hurt its effort to raise $3 million for expansion, citing correspondence from a potential investor reticent to invest in the company because of the similarity between the two names.


A Google spokesman declined to comment.


Stelor filed its objections before the patent office's Trademark Trial and Appeal Board. The board could reject Google's use of the term for children's-related products, said Martin Schwimmer, a trademark attorney in New York.


"The use of Google and Googles by unrelated entities for identical goods or services is problematic," he said. "How close these two entities can come to each other is a proper question for the TTAB, or for the parties to work out for themselves."


The dispute comes three months after a British investment research company laid claim to the Gmail trademark, objecting to Google's use of the term for its soon-to-be-released e-mail service. The company said it has operated a Web-based e-mail service called GmailTM since mid-2002.


Google also has moved to protect its trademark. The company has tussled with an adult-oriented search engine, Booble, sending it a cease-and-desist letter. In addition, Google has made moves to protect its name from becoming a generic term for Web search, which would dilute its trademark.


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