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Why Can't Google Trademark 'Glass'?

By Brett Snider, Esq. on April 09, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Google has unsuccessfully been trying to trademark the word "Glass" for its hip tech toy Google Glass, but the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied all attempts.

The product's name, "Google Glass," has already been successfully trademarked by Google, but the tech company is struggling with the slightly more succinct "Glass," reports The Huffington Post.

Why is "Glass" difficult for Google to trademark?

Trademarking a Generic Name

Google isn't the only one trying to trademark a generic name. Not surprisingly, Facebook tried the same thing with "book," but CNET reports that it has only succeeded in trademarking "F," "Face," "FB," and "Wall."

So what's so difficult about "Glass?" Luckily, we don't have to guess, since the USPTO already sent Google a letter in September 2013 telling them exactly why "Glass" was a problem.

For starters, "Glass":

  • Has a likelihood to confuse consumers. As much as Google wishes it were so, when customers ask for a "Glass," 99.9 percent of the time, they want something to drink.
  • Is too descriptive to be a trademark. Google Glass is/are glasses, made in part of... glass. The USPTO says "Glass" is too descriptive to make the term that useful in identifying Google as the source.
  • Is the subject of other previously filed trademark applications. Seven other applications for "Glass" were filed before Google's, and those applications are all still pending.
  • Is not narrow enough in scope. Google had attempted to cover too much with "Glass" in its trademark application. A rookie mistake.
  • Is unclear. Since "Glass" is very descriptive and not exactly limited to things made of glass, it isn't clear where the trademark ends or where it begins.

Business owners should already have considered some of these issues when choosing the names for their businesses.

Don't Overestimate Your Brand

While "Google" may be a household name by now, part of the struggle to register "Glass" is that Google overestimated its clout. According to The Wall Street Journal, in response to the USPTO's letter, Google sent a 1,928-page defense of its "Glass" application -- though most of those pages were news articles about Google Glass.

Trademarks are largely about customer confusion and association, and Google may have confused the company's own largess with consumer association with "Glass." Business owners would do well to heed the advice of the USPTO and consult an experienced trademark attorney in situations like these.

Especially for a product that, as of April, still isn't available to the public.

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