8/21/17

SCOTUS May Decide If “To Google” Is A Generic Term

Earlier this year, a federal court decided that while “googling” is a popular phrase that means “to search for something online,” that doesn’t mean the company should lose its trademark protection. Now the people behind that case have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court, hoping that the Supremes will agree that a verbed brand name is a generic term.

“Genericide” is when a word begins as a brand, but later becomes a generic term used to describe all brands of that thing. Think of trampolines, laundromats, aspirin, or escalators — all terms that started as brand names, but are now generic nouns.

Just AltaVista It

The Google genericide case began in 2012, when two enterprising men registered hundreds of domain names that combined brands or the names of prominent people with “Google” in the verb form. Examples of these domain names include “googledisney.com” and “googlebarackobama.net.”

Google was not pleased with this foresight, and sought to have the domain names, which use its trademark, turned over. The registrants argued that the domain names didn’t infringe on Google’s trademark, since using the word that way has become so common that it’s now a generic term.

Googling as a verb

The case worked its way from domain dispute resolution to the federal court system, with the U.S. Court of Appeals agreeing with a district court that “Google” is not yet a generic term, even in verb form.

Now attorneys for the two men have filed a petition [PDF] for the Supreme Court to hear the case, hoping to settle the genericization question. The issue that brings this case to the Supreme Court level is whether common usage of a word as a verb is enough to show that it’s been genericized.

While Google isn’t the only search engine on the internet, it is the most popular one, and the only one that has become a verb. Despite Microsoft’s best efforts, no one ever condescendingly tells you to go “bing” something. People don’t say, “give me a minute to duckduckgo that name.”

“I went to Bing and googled it”

In their petition, attorneys for the domain-registering plaintiffs observe that the lower courts ruled that “to google” remains a trademarked usage, in spite of “examples of actual references by members of the relevant public to googling on other search engines such as Yahoo or Bing.”

People do use “google” as a verb in this manner, but one difference is that at the time this case began, Google was the name of the entire company. Google is now one subsidiary of a holding company called Alphabet, and still isn’t just the name of a single product from a larger company.

If the Supreme Court takes up this case, it will decide whether common verbing of a trademarked noun means that it is in common usage as a generic term. If the court declines to hear the case, that means the lower court’s decision stands.

While no one will sue you every time you tell someone to go “google” something, it will be an issue for people who want to use the term on products, in their own brand names, or in domain names.

Walmart Imagines Floating Warehouses That Could Rain Down Delivery Drones

While Amazon has dreams of delivery drone beehives and parachuting packages, it’s not the only one looking upward: Walmart has plans for a floating warehouse capable of launching flying delivery vehicles so it can rain discount goods on you from the skies.

Walmart filed a patent for a “gas-filled aerial transport and launch system” that sounds a bit like a blimp: it would involve “a carrier compartment where the gas chamber induces a lifting force on the carrier compartment” and at least one propulsion system, as well as a “navigation control system” that controls where the aircraft goes.

There will also be several launching bays for unmanned aircraft systems that allow drones to be launched while the “the transport aircraft is in flight and while the UAS is carrying a package to be delivered.”

The machine could fly anywhere between 500 and 1,000 feet, and someone on the ground would be controlling it as well as piloting drones out of the launching bay as they head toward shoppers’ homes.

Amazon filed a patent for a similar system last year for floating “airborne fulfillment centers” that would hang out over high-population area or evens like festivals and sporting games. Those AFCs would be stocked with commonly purchased items, instead of acting as dispatch centers for specific orders.

Dutch Bros. Warns Customers Not To Use Eclipse Glasses Given Away At Stores, Offers Free Coffee Instead

Here’s Why Scientists Are Launching Bacteria-Laden Balloons During The Solar Eclipse

While people stand at the ready around the country today with special glasses and pinhole projectors to view the solar eclipse, a group of NASA scientists will be at work launching balloons in an effort to learn a bit more about life on another planet.

NASA is collaborating with students to send high-altitude balloons into the sky around the country today while the moon covers the sun, in order to not only to stream live aerial footage from the edge of space, but also to study how living things react to Mars’ atmosphere.

Yes, Mars. A research group at NASA’s Ames Research Center will send 34 balloons up during the eclipse in an effort to “simulate life’s ability to survive beyond Earth.”

The balloons will carry cards bearing a harmless yet environmentally resilient bacteria dried onto their surface. The cards that fly up with the balloons will be compared to their partners on the ground, allowing researchers to see the consequences of the exposure to Mars-like conditions, such as bacterial survival and any genetic changes.

See, Earth’s stratosphere is already very similar to Mars’, and during the eclipse — while temperatures drop and the moon blocks certain ultraviolet rays that are less abundant in the Martian atmosphere — it will be even more so.

“The August solar eclipse gives us a rare opportunity to study the stratosphere when it’s even more Mars-like than usual,” said Jim Green, director of planetary science at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “With student teams flying balloon payloads from dozens of points along the path of totality, we’ll study effects on microorganisms that are coming along for the ride.”

This will give NASA insight into environmental limits for other forms of terrestrial life, and help inform the search for life on other worlds as well.

“The solar eclipse on August 21st is enabling unprecedented exploration through citizen scientists and students,” said David J. Smith of Ames, principal investigator for the experiment and mentor for the Space Life Science Training Program, the intern group developing flight hardware and logistics for this study. “After this experiment flies, we will have about 10 times more samples to analyze than all previously flown stratosphere microbiology missions combined.”