This is Groggle.com, an Australian price-comparison Web site that hunts down the cheapest alcohol for your pleasure (and pain, the following day). It’s just been sent a cease-and-desist letter by Google.com–for those of you not in the know, it’s an online search engine firm based in the U.S. which is diversifying into other markets. And it’s all to do with the Groggle founders’ choice of name.
Cameron Collie and Alec Doughty registered the name with the Aussie trademark office last year, and it was approved in February. Tens of thousands of dollars later, Google pounced, asking the dipsophilic startup to withdraw its trademark, change its name, transfer the domain name–groggle.com.au to Google, acknowledge in writing that it had been a very naughty boy, that it had committed the tort of passing off, and so on and so forth.
Talk about using a piledriver, a few tons of plastic explosive, and an army of Macgyvers to open a screw-top bottle of wine.
The Mindboggled blog has got something interesting to say about the episode. It notes that there are already a bunch of search engines that go by the names of Doogle, Joogle, and Toogle. I even found one called Moogle. Search engines. Not price comparison sites. Search engines. Now then, surely that is more of an infringement on Google’s business than a place that lets you find the cheapest booze around and then, if not use it as antifreeze on your car, drink the stuff?
The smart money’s on Google backing down over the affair. When far-reaching, tech-savvy, and, it must be argued, visionary company makes an ant-stampingly pathetic gesture like this, it’s magnified by Hubble-sian proportions. The only thing that happens is that the behemoth looks like a toogle–sorry, tool–the plucky underdogs get Facebook pages and Twitter hashtags, and publicity campaigns led by slightly tragic politicians. It’s non-news made nonsense.
It’s been done before, most notably by Apple, who started flinging legal nunchuks in the direction of the city of New York when it dared to use an Apple in its GreeNYC campaign logo and, more recently, at Woolworths. Ironically enough, they’d been sued to buggery loads of times by the Beatles’ Apple Corps record label in the preceding 25 or so years. And you wonder why you still can’t buy the Beatles on iTunes?
The one great thing about this little Google v Groggle dispute is that it has garnered acres of free publicity for the startup. Although it does beg the question: Why did Google think it necessary to jump in, studs up, and tackle a couple of enterprising blokes whose domain name is marginally similar to theirs? It’s the part of the cease-and-desist letter where Google’s lawyers demand transfer of the groggle.com.au domain to Google Australia that leaves the Lucky Jim-style bad taste in the mouth. It’s just greedy.