Google — much like the thermos, the zipper, or the trampoline — has reached the point where it’s as much of a verb or noun as it is a company.
As the term has become genericized (i.e. “I googled your mom last night”), it’s gotten harder for the tech giant to defend its intellectual property. Turns out, the more popular a trademark gets, the more it belongs to the public.
It’s kinda like the sun: too much exposure can be really damaging.
Under US trademark law, a trademark that becomes widely used as a word could potentially be considered “abandoned.” This happens when a product or service (i.e. Kleenex) dominates a market so completely that that term becomes an indicator of the item (a sheet of nose-blowing paper), rather than the specific company it came from.
Law geeks call this “genericide” — and companies fiercely fight to prevent it from happening, mainly by dissuading wider public use of their protected terms.
Google passionately hates “google” as a verb
The company has actively discouraged the generic usage of the term — even going so far as to pick a fight with dictionary-makers.
In 2006, the OED and Merriam-Webster both added “google” (verb; lowercase) to their volumes, defining it as such: “to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet”.
Google (the company) penned a non-enthused response on its blog. “Bad. Very, very bad,” it wrote. “You can only ‘Google’ on the Google search engine.”
Well, a lot of folks disagree…
Including Chris Gillespie, the man who filed the Supreme Court petition last week.
In 2012, Gillespie registered no less than 763 domain names containing the word “google” — all of which redirect to an adult website. ICANN (which regulates domain names) filed a petition to enter “google” into the public domain, but it failed, and now Gillespie has to hand over his domains to Google.
Gillespie appealed the case to a federal court in Arizona and lost again. Now, he’s giving it another shot at the highest level — and in the next 2-3 months, we’ll see if Notorious RBG and the gang are interested in taking it on.
No more Mr. Bad Ride
Amidst Uber’s tumultuous relationships with the press, employees, board members, and top executives, Uber’s US market share dropped 7% in the first half of the year (from 84% to 77%). Meanwhile, Lyft’s bookings increased 135% year-over-year.
Now, desperate for some good PR, Uber is hoping it can salvage at least one of these burned bridges — and get back on their drivers’ good side.
They’re finally letting them hop out of the Pool
As part of its “180 Days of Change” campaign, Uber will now give drivers “more flexibility” to choose which kinds of trips they accept (UberPool, UberX, UberXL, and UberEats).
Unfortunately for drivers looking to avoid low fares and cranky carpool passengers, UberPool and UberX are grouped together, so opting out of the former could cost them valuable ride opportunities.
The new, “friendlier” Uber will also let them decline more trips without hurting their rating, specify a desired area to pick up/drop off in, and give them a heads up for “long trips” (so they don’t get blindsided by an 8-hour Uber from Chicago to Buffalo).
But it may be too little too late
Over the past several years, Uber has earned a reputation for cutthroat price cuts and ongoing legal battles to keep drivers classified as contractors (and therefore withhold the benefits offered to full-time employees).
As a result, their 2m drivers have little loyalty to the platform, and typically double-dip with Uber and their “nice guy” alter ego, Lyft, for ride opportunities.
Back in March, Cyclone Enawo ripped through Madagascar — the producer of about 50% of the world’s vanilla beans.
The result of that? In the present market, a pound a vanilla beans now runs about $272-320 per pound — a 400% increase over what the spice cost before, and a record high.
Today, most vanilla-flavored products use the fake stuff (Vanillin, or other synthetic garbage). But the flavor warriors who demand nothing but authentic tinges on their tongues are paying quite a premium for it.
Even at these prices though, vanilla is nowhere near the world’s most expensive spice: saffron, at $5,000 per pound, costs 18x more.
While vanilla’s price is a little volatile lately because of a bad break in the weather, saffron is always sky-high, thanks to an incredibly labor-intensive harvesting process.
Following founder Ev Willilams’ bombshell post about how the blogosphere is broken, Medium has finally unveiled its new and improved content monetization strategy: claps.
The “clap” button, which they rolled out a couple of weeks ago, allows readers to click a little hand icon as many times as they want to show appreciation for an article.
And writers can make money off them
Huh… As The Verge puts it, it seems like a strangely arbitrary, easily gameable model. Theoretically, some basement blogger’s mom could sit at home giving all their posts a standing-o, right?
But let’s suspend judgment for a second: assuming that individual claps aren’t worth enough for someone to make a living off content only a mother could love, it could be an interesting way to reward bloggers for having more “super fans.”
AKA, having a cult following
There’s a lot to be said for creating content that’s hyper-relatable to a specific group of people, say hot tub entrepreneurs (AKA, hottubpreneurs) and growing a small, but highly engaged readership.
In other words, pretty much the opposite of the current click-obsessed mega-blogs dominating the ‘net, at the expense of those writing unique, valuable stuff.
So in theory, makes sense. In practice, we’re guessing there’ll be a few bugs to work out…
As a writer, I’m incredibly angsty about business books. And by that I mean I hate most of them.
The way I see it, the vast majority are written as a feather in a founder’s backpack and could be condensed to a 4-part blog series, instead of 400 pages.
This book is the exception. Since getting tricked into buying it at a hipster card shop in Brooklyn, I’ve forced everyone in the office to read it — I even mailed a physical copy of this book to a friend in Pittsburgh like a straight octogenarian.
You Are A Message is written by creative consultant Guillaume Wolf, AKA “Prof. G,” and contains a stand-alone nugget of wisdom on every single page to challenge your creative thinking, and how it applies to your business.
If you’re struggling to pin down what makes your voice or brand unique (as a business or just as a person), I highly recommend You Are A Message.
It’s super easy to digest and strikes the perfect balance between creative inspiration and real-world business philosophies that we strive for at the Hustle. Plus it’s mercifully devoid of corporate buzzwords.
Disclaimer: This is a fully unpaid endorsement. We just wanted to do a feature highlighting the tools we, as a company, use and love on a daily basis. No joke, it’s not even an affiliate link. Check it.
This edition of The Hustle was brought to you by
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