If there is one thing Google is good at, it’s framing themselves and their actions as being “good for the user” and for the benefit of others while playing down how their actions are self-serving. However, those of us who have been around the block a few times know that Google plays fast and loose with rules, employing them when they work to their advantage and completely ignoring them when they stand in the way of Google getting what Google wants. In this post, I’ll prove how the only one Google cares about is Google … and how their stated mission of serving the users is nothing more than a red herring.
For those of you who missed it, a few weeks ago Google announced a new tool called the Google Dremel. If you aren’t familiar with the home repair or crafting industry, you can be forgiven for not knowing this, but Dremel is the brand name of a precision rotary tool that’s been around for about 75 years. Using another company’s name in one your products, even if it’s done as an homage, is still a form of trademark infringement and intellectual property violation. It doesn’t matter that you are “just serving the users, man” (it’s infinitely more credible if you say it in a Jeff Bridges, 60’s hippie beatnik voice), it’s still wrong. If you don’t think it’s wrong, ask yourself if a “Google Black & Decker Website Builder Tool” is ok.
[pullquote]If you work in an industry that Google touches, influences, or even sets the rules for, knowing that they are willing to change the rules or apply them selectively–usually for their own benefit–is important… [/pullquote]If you look back, you’ll see that Google has a long history of ignoring trademarks and intellectual property rights. Case in point: the Google Holodeck. For those of you that don’t know, “Holodeck” is a trademarked word from the Star Trek Universe, and you can’t use it to name your product without permission from the trademark owners (in this case, Paramount Movie Studio). Want another? How about the Google oSX page. This Google page featured icons that used “Mac style” genie effects. The fact that this was trademarked by Apple was irrelevant to Google … until Apple’s lawyers got involved and Google was forced to take down the page.
Some would argue that Google has a long standing opposition to copyright and IP legislation, claiming it stifles creativity and technological innovation, and you would be right … but only half right. This is where Google shows how two faced it is. They may oppose intellectual property legislation when someone else has something Google wants. However, if Google feels threatened, they are more than ready to let the legal team off the leash and make ridiculous claims like iPhones and iPads violate Motorola (aka Google’s) patents. Google is also suing Apple over Siri and providing under the table legal and monetary aid to Samsung vs Apple. So you will excuse me if I find Google’s claim that “it’s all about the users” a bit disingenous.
Why is this important to know? If you work in an industry that Google touches, influences, or sets the rules for, knowing that they are willing to change the rules or apply them selectively–usually for their own benefit–is important. Knowing that they will develop internal and external tools that flagrantly ignore your trademarks or other intellectual property advantages you might have is a good thing to know. Knowing that Google will throw you under the bus and steal your user interface or company name because it stands in the way of “their innovation”–even if you’ve been in business for over 75 years–makes you realize it’s not all peace, love, unicorns, rainbows, and lava lamps. It’s you having something they want. And heaven help you if you don’t have the legal money and firepower to put up a fight.