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Google attempts to trademark the word 'glass'

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Monday, April 7, 2014, 5:11 PM -

"Apple" belongs to Apple Inc., "Tide" belongs to a detergent company and now, the word "glass" may become the intellectual property of tech powerhouse Google.

The company hopes to acquire the trademark in relation to its Google Glass eyewear -- a wearable computer that displays information like a smartphone.

But that could be easier said than done.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has identified some snags in the company's request.

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One potential problem is that the term "glass" may be to similar to existing or pending trademarks, like "looking glass", "iGlass", "smartglass" and "teleglass".

"Google would want to trademark the word 'glass' in order to prevent competitors from using the word to describe similar products," says Jeremy Hudia, an intellectual property lawyer based in Cleveland.

"For example, if Samsung came out with a pair of glasses that operated as a smartphone, they could not call it the Samsung Galaxy Glass. They would want to prevent other companies from using the phrase 'glass' to describe that kind of product."

Allyson Cannon, recruitment manager of the National Press Club, tries Google Glass at the National Press Club in Washington on April 4, 2014. Google Glass is a wearable computer with an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) which displays information in a smartphone-like hands-free format. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

If Google were to successfully trademark the word, they wouldn't have complete control over how it's used, Hudia says. 

Trademarking the term "would not mean other companies could not use the word ... It would only prohibit others from calling similar 'glass' products. A window company could still use the word, and so could a company that makes wine glasses. It would only stop others from using the word in a similar context."

But the lines get blurred when a competitor wants to come close to using the trademarked term.

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"If Google trademarks 'glass,' another company couldn't use the word for a very similar product, and they probably couldn't use it to refer to a smartphone," Hudia says.

"They may or may not be able to use it for a regular pair of glasses that does not operate like a smartphone at all. Google would have to go to court to protect trademark protection, and the court would decide whether the regular glasses could be called 'glass.'"

While the desire to trademark a common term may seem bizarre, Miami-based lawyer Heidi Tandy says it could offer the company some valuable protection.

"Without a trademark registration, they'll have a harder time stopping others from using 'glass' in connection with wearable peripherals," she says.

"They're not trying to stop anyone from using 'glass' descriptively or in connection with any other goods or services ... there are already at least half a dozen registrations by other companies for the term 'glass' on its own ... that won't stop, even if Google gets this registration."


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