Recently, Google announced that it has formed a new parent company, “ALPHABET” that will serve as an umbrella of sorts for all of its other companies, including Google itself. We’re intrigued by Gizmodo’s theory that Google’s move and its “nutbar projects” are somehow related to “Tesla Envy.” Google’s CEO and co-founder, Larry Page, though, explains:
What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related.
Google will become a wholly-owned subsidery of Alphabet, Inc., which replaces Google, Inc. as the publicly traded entity. All shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet. Both classes of Alphabet shares, however, will still carry the ticker symbols GOOGL and GOOG. Mr. Page also announced that Sundar Pichai will serve as Google’s CEO.
The major news outlets (e.g. Reuters), however, seem more interested in a potential trademark issue between Google and BMW over the ALPHABET trademark. According to multiple news stories, BMW owns the domain name and rights in the “ALPHABET” mark, which is the same name that Google wants to use for its umbrella company. Google also registered the domain name abc.xyz, which is pretty darn cute and likely won’t cause any problems with BMW’s ALPHABET mark or domain.
So far, we haven’t seen that BMW or Google has filed any U.S. trademark registrations or applications for the ALPHABET mark. That doesn’t mean, though, that BMW isn’t currently using the ALPHABET mark (as stated in the media) or that BMW or Google don’t own registrations/applications for the mark in other jurisdictions.
Rather than BMW, if Google tries to register its ALPHABET mark, it may have more of an issue with another German company, Alfabet GmbH, who uses the ALFABET mark for software and information technology:
U.S. trademark law assess the “likelihood of confusion” to determine whether use of one company’s mark will conflict with that of another company. If a likelihood of confusion exits, it means that consumers who encounter the two marks, as used by the respective companies, are likely to be confused as to whether those companies are one and the same or have some affiliation or sponsorship relationship. When U.S. courts assess whether or not there is a likelihood of confusion, they will look at how the respective marks are spelled, which goods/services are covered and possibly other factors as well (e.g. the parties’ respective customer base). For example, it is possible that a court would view the ALPHABET mark as too similar to the ALFABET mark- notwithstanding the difference in spelling- if both companies are using the mark for similar types of computer software and information technology services.
As far as anyone is aware, though, no one has objected to Google’s planned use of its ALPHABET mark. And, according to Reuter’s report, it appears that Google isn’t intending to offer products or services under the ALPHABET mark.