Search Marketing

Google Tells Booble to Cease and Desist

Google’s lawyers have sent a cease and desist email to Booble.com. They claim trademark violation and dispute Booble’s claims that the site is simply a parody… which under law is protected free speech.

Booble is a porn search engine set up to mimick Google. In an “I dare you to sue us” launch, Booble claimed its a parody site. However, there is a difference between doing a parody and profitting from a blatant attempt of stealing one’s image in the name of parody.

Recent rulings may favor Google in the case since Booble may be trying to profit from the marketability of the parody. In Supreme Court Case Hustler Magazine, Inc. v. Moral Majority, Inc., 606 F. Supp. 1526 (C.D. Cal. 1985, Publisher Larry Flynt made disparaging statements about the Reverend Jerry Falwell on one page of Hustler magazine. It was ruled that since Falwell thrust himself into the public eye as a celebrity, he was open to parody.

Other rulings have reflected the losses of the company or person’s estate and potential capital gains of the “parody.” Here’s a case by case rundown on Copyright & Fair Use.

The Search Engine Journal will keep its readers informed of what comes out of this difference between Goog’s and Boob’s.

Here is a copy of the email sent to Booble (originally reported on WebProWorld):

========================

Via Email to: BOOBLE.COM
RE: Infringement of Google’s trademarks and trade dress: http://www.booble.com (Our ref.: 4.614)
Dear Sir or Madam:

Google is the owner of the well-known trademark and trade name GOOGLE, as well as the domain name GOOGLE.COM. As you are no doubt aware, GOOGLE is the trademark used to identify our award-winning search engine, located at http://www.google.com. Since its inception in 1997, the GOOGLE search engine has become one of the most highly recognized and widely used Internet search engines in the world. Google owns numerous trademark registrations and applications for its GOOGLE mark in countries around the world.

Google has used and actively promoted its GOOGLE mark for a number of years, and has invested considerable time and money establishing exclusive proprietary rights in the GOOGLE mark for online computer services and a wide range of goods. As a result of its efforts, the GOOGLE mark has become a famous mark and a property right of incalculable value.

Google has developed a distinctive layout and design for its Google website. Over the years since its inception, Google has invested considerable time and money establishing exclusive rights in this layout and design. By virtue of these efforts, the layout and design of Google’s website are recognized by visitors as originating with Google. Google aggressively protects and polices its intellectual property rights, including the various trademark and service marks used for its search services and related goods and services, the distinctive trade dress used to present its services to Internet users, and the copyrighted material on its website.

We have recently become aware of your website at http://www.booble.com (the Domain Name). This Domain Name is confusingly similar to the famous GOOGLE trademark. Your web site is a pornographic web site. Your web site improperly duplicates the distinctive and proprietary overall look and feel of Google’s website, including Google’s trade dress and the GOOGLE logo.

Your use of the Domain Name and corresponding web site constitutes trademark infringement and dilution of Google’s trademarks and unfair competition under federal and state laws. Further, your improper duplication of Google’s trade dress on the web site will mislead consumers into believing that some association exists between Google and you, which tarnishes the goodwill and reputation of Google’s services and trademarks. Your registration and use of the Domain Name is in bad faith pursuant to the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (“UDRP”) and is clearly designed to appropriate the goodwill associated with the famous GOOGLE mark in violation of the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (“ACPA”). In addition, you would not be able to demonstrate any rights or legitimate interests in the Domain Name because you are using it to tarnish the GOOGLE mark.

We note that you have given interviews to the press in which you state that you intended booble.com to be a parody. We dispute your assertion that your website is a parody. For a work to constitute a parody, it must use some elements of a prior author”s composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on the original author”s works. See Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U.S. 569. Your website does not comment on the Google website at all; it merely uses the Google look and feel and a similar name for a search engine.

In view of your infringement of Google’s rights, we must demand that you provide written assurances within 7days that you will immediately:

1. Disable the http://www.booble.com website and discontinue any and all use of the Domain Name;
2. Take steps to transfer the Domain Name to Google;
3. Identify and agree to transfer to Google any other domain names registered by you that contain the GOOGLE or are confusingly similar to the GOOGLE marks;4. Permanently refrain from any use of the term GOOGLE or any variation thereof that is likely to cause confusion or dilution;
5. Immediately and permanently cease and desist from using the Google trade dress.

Sincerely,

The Google Trademark Enforcement Team

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What are your thoughts on the case and is Booble a parody or are they treading on Google’s copyright? Please leave your comments below:

Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google Tells Booble to Cease and Desist
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Screen Shot 2014 04 15 at 7.21.12 AM Google Tells Booble to Cease and Desist

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48 thoughts on “Google Tells Booble to Cease and Desist

  1. I have so say I agree with Google on this one. If Booble was trying to make money selling the parody it would be one thing. They are not. They are trying to make money as a search engine using the parady as a marketing tool. That’s an obvious enfringement.

  2. I _would_ agree with Google if it weren’t a fact that the “trade dress” in question is a mere manifestation of minimality. If Google is claiming to own all minimal web pages (which it just might think it does), then it’s way overstepping its bounds. Google’s trade dress itself ought to be considered particularly weak (the absence of dress is not itself dress).

  3. I dont see a trace of parody on booble.com. It may be that I lack a sense of humour, but there is nothing funny in duplicating a search engine with a search engine. Ok, they changed the colors, and tweaked graphics, but all in all, it looks like a way to try and cash on Google’s marketing and market visibility. I have to agree with google on this one..

  4. Google is turning a Microsoft like company? Too sad, a very good company like this taking this type of actions? (see: mikerowesoft case)

    This is the first step to trash a company name…

  5. Google is right. You don’t spend this much time building a respectable search engine, and then just have some misfits tarnish and spit on it.

  6. Well the first thing I thought the first time I saw Booble:
    “Ha-ha, that looks just like Google! These guys are going to get sued!”
    So no, not so much like Microsoft; If I didn’t know better, I would indeed have thought it was a Google-run/licensed search engine. Until I read the fine print, anyway.
    Sure is funny, though.

  7. I must say that it’s rather funny being that Google has been so acclaimed. However, I find no infringement in kind, the graphics from the parody site are in no way intended to make Google look bad, and the site design may be similar, but there is the accompanying disclaimer for adult material, and references to the fact that they are in no way affiliated with Google…

    My suggestion?

    Lay off ‘em, there’s no reason to get so worked up…

  8. Actually I’m insulted to think that as a Google user I wouldn’t be able to differentiate between the real thing and one with tits in the title. The largest form of flattery is imitation; I’d take it as a compliment as go about my business. I don’t see Google losing customers or revenue because of Booble.

  9. I’m not so sure that the case for trademark infringement is as clear as people seem to think. The issue is customer confusion, and I’m not at all certain that Booble is confusingly similar to Google at all.

  10. This is one fo those cases where you hope it DOES go to court, just to be able to read the daily transcripts of what was said in the courtroom. I’m sure there’d be some choice quotes resulting. Sadly, I think booble’s days are numbered, at least in it’s current incarnation.

  11. The below quote is submitted from a letter written by the United States Copyright Office to the creators of FireJerryAngelo.com with regards towards an accusation of copyright infringement on that of the Chicago Bears and ChicagoBears.com.

    “Copyright protects the textual, pictorial, or musical expression embodied in a work. By law, however, copyright does not protect ‘any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, illustrated or embodied’ in a work.

    The format, layout, arrangement of material on a page, and design of a work as a whole fall within the realm of uncopyrightable ideas and concepts. Also, graphic elements such as typography, coloring and lettering are not considered copyrightable, nor are familiar designs or symbols.”

    The current Google-Booble debacle should fall under the same.
    Possibly the Google team should have consulted with this office first before staking their claim. Being “confusingly similar” does not denote copyright infringement. Subsequently, the “Google trade dress” does not exist.

    A displayable disclaimer on the Booble homepage stating no association with Google could possibly be a gentlemanly solution. However, by no means required by law.

  12. I think the authors of #14 and #15 have the terms “copyright infringement” and “trademark infringement” mixed up. Everybody that has basic knowledge of copyright law knows that you can’t copyright ideas, designs, names, etc., but that isn’t the main issue that Google is taking offense at. They don’t accuse the makers of Booble of copyright infringement, but of “trademark infringement and dilution.” Google has spent years in building up brand and trademark awareness, as well as sticking with a distinctive look, and now the maker of Booble is trying to inappropriately cash in on the work that Google has done.

    Certain of Google’s claims (such as their assertion that Booble copies their “trade dress”), when viewed separately from the rest of the points in the argument, are somewhat weak. However, when you look at it as a whole, you can see that each individual claim just works to build up their main argument, which is that Booble is infringing and diluting Google’s trademark. There’s no question that the website was made to imitate Google’s style, that everything from the search engine premise to the domain name to the site design was deliberately chosen to mimic Google and, as Google puts it, “clearly designed to appropriate the goodwill associated with the famous GOOGLE mark.”

    To me, Booble looks simply like a copy of a popular search engine that’s trying to steal some of the positive name association that Google has built up. I might be wrong, but I would be very surprised if Google loses this case.

  13. Indeed the booble.com team should change their layout and overall look so as to keep it from staying to close to google.coms layout. However turning over the name is too much to ask from my point of view, if every name that was similar to another website that was “popular” on the internet then there would be half the sites available. The internet works on similar ideas popping up with similar names. So I agree they should cease and desist using material similar to Google’s as far as page layout and design and especially logo, however I believe Booble owns the right to the name and google is just tryingt oflex its muscle in demanding the turnover of the name booble to them. I’d follow the order to change the site but tell them to pound sand in me stopping my service all together. I’ll see them in court if they want to tell me what domain names I can and cannot use.

  14. CONFUSINGLY similar? That may be the most baldfaced lie that I have ever seen! What moron with brain enough to use a computer would actually confuse the two? That claim is absolutely ridiculous!

    As for it duplicating the “distinctive look and feel,” unless Google has spiced up their site lately, I hardly think this assertion can be considered plausible either.

    Even though I surf 40+ hours/week, I had not heard of booble prior to all this hoopla (whoops, there’s another confusingly similar word) about Google’s cease & desist nastygram. But after visiting the site in question, I’d like to say that nothing can duplicate the look and feel of breasts!

    There shouldn’t be anything wrong with profiting from parody. Comedians do it full time. In the music world, look at Wierd Al Yankovic, or Pinkard & Bowden. There are plenty of professional purveyors of parody. All of them are protected by our right to free speech. Providing comic relief is an important service, and I believe there’s nothing wrong with getting paid to do it.

  15. I agree with Nu. 14. A google is a number (10 to the 15 power?). Since when are numbers copywrighted? On the other hand ‘Booble’ is a name. In my opinion ‘Google.com’ should not have been allowed to register its supposedly ‘name’ for copywright protection much less a trademark.

  16. Booble is not a parody. It is a working search engine. No jokes regarding Google at all. = No parody. I love Booble but they are treading and will have to change. I don’t agree with handing over the url name and hope they can keep it. If they change their look I think they can survive this. Google, sit back and chill.

  17. I actually agree with Google on this one. Booble’s not a parody, and it’s a competitor in the same space as Google. They’re gonna become as a flat as a 12 year old in a training bra by the time Google’s lawyers are through with ‘em. See my blog entry for more details ;).

  18. This is Google commiting assault by lawsuit on Bobble. Anyone with half a brain can tell they’re not the same entity.

  19. I don’t understand Google’s actions, they seemed to have their own sense of humor at one point. Yet that seems to have faded away.

    Their accusations that the names “Booble” and “Google” are “Confusingly similar” is slightly unfounded, given the spellings. They also accused that Booble was using their logo, when they, in fact, did not. They may have used a likeness but that is protected under parody rights.

    Also, copyrighting a colored border and menu system, that they call their “Trade Dress,” is like copyrighting the clothes I am wearing today. It’s like saying, “I’m going to copyright wearing blue jeans and a red t-shirt, and if anyone else uses this look, I’m going to sue them!”

    Do not get me wrong, I understand that Google is one of the best, and most reveered search engines on-line, but come on, it’s a parody, and a funny one at that.

  20. Having just glanced at the newspaper article in the Sydney Morning Herald, I thought “I have to see this”. Not really looking at the web address I just assumed it was boogle.com – If Google are worried that we are gonna mix up the two websites well I sure as hell didn’t! Get over it guys its a damn domain name and a clever one at that. I won’t stop using Google because of Booble, In fact isn’t there the old adage that any publicity is good publicity? Call me negative but maybe thats part of the real issue here.

  21. TO: GOOGLE- what a crock of shit-anyone who can get BOOBS out of GOOGLE is a literary genius. Some one at GOOGLE has a raging case of: R.V.I.[rectal vision itis]& needs to pull their head out of their ass and look at the humor! Copyright my ass.any one who confuses these two sites has a serious mental hardship.

  22. Google should sue them. What if some kids saw that site then someone told them about Google. Everyone in the world does not know about Google. So if someone sees Booble first then sees Google it obviously is going to tarnish their reputation beyond repair. Google would win this case in court. The main problem here is the adult content being associated with the branding of Google. The Google branding is their own and cannot be reproduced. It is like someone trying to open a store call McDanalds and then making the branding and menu look exactly identical.

    Check out my site at: http://booxle.com/

  23. This site is hilarious! Plus now I can search for a female celebrity without having to add the word “nude” to the query! It’s just assumed!

  24. I think Booble is funny but it isn’t running as a parody site, it is a business. Google users will be familiar with all the new products out there such as froogle (and will their news site soon be noogle). Given this, its pretty obvious to me that they are cashing in on Google’s name and reputation. If a novice was looking for nudie pics it is not unreasonable to think that booble is a sister site of google, I mean come on it looks almost exactly the same right down to the multiple mammaries at the bottom of the result page where google has the o’s.If google were to have an adult search page mightn’t it look like this?
    Stop bashing businesses for protecting themselves.

  25. There is no doubt that booble is enjoying a free ride on Good Old Google. After reading booble’s and Google’s point of view, visiting booble (without trying out the search) I hand out the verdict — booble is GUILTY. It is not even worth using capitals to mention the name. booble is enjoying a free ride on Google making use of their hard earned name, fame, popularity, and even layout! Just by terming it a parody, these squatters are still enjoying existence! Where is the law? A classic case of glaring inadequacies of implementation, should I say? Google’s hard earned name (Through years of endurance and hard work on comprehensive net solutions) should not be misused in such a manner. To conclude I must point out the cheekiness of Booble here: “for starters, we have a sense of humor.
    If you are looking for Google.com, click here”
    This could be taken as association with Google by the fast surfer!
    The layout and specifically this: “If you are looking for Google.com, click here” gives one the feeling that it is an affiliate site.
    This is blatant disregard of all internet protocol. I believe this site should be taken off instantly. booble! you oughta play the game by the rules. For that matter I have umpteen foolproof tricks (which I never would resort to or give out!) to make it big in the net world.
    BOO!

  26. IS anyone forgeting the obvious here? Would you want your children fat fingering/mistyping http://www.google.com to http://www.booble.com as the G and B keys are literally right next to each other on the keyboard. I sure wouldn’t want to explain to my children what pops up on the screen seconds after the hit the site and perfom a search on Animals!

  27. This is freakin’ hilarious! I have only briefly looked over http://www.booble.com, but it seems to me that Google is right. There is no reference to Google on booble.com other than that the two have no affiliation with each other. BTW, I use a screen-reader to find out what is on the screen, and the version I’m using takes the user right to the edit field for typing in one’s search criteria on Google. When I clicked on Booble my screen-reader did the same thing.

  28. Booble **will not survive** … but not because of Google’s legal action.

    If you search for “Chloe Vevrier” at both, you’ll know why ;-)

    How in the freakin’ world could “Booble” miss this?

  29. hey this gr8 search engine gettin tuff wid boobs…!!! any6 wayz this copying is not praise ful and google shud keep on gng wid iz wrk , shuudnt mind at all for all dis shit site. google has a image and booble has a funny pron image.
    sue it n keep on laughing

  30. I wouldn’t take either side. Google has gotten too big for its pants. And the company’s tricks have become obvious. For instance. Parental controls. They don’t work. Jokes have been made about it on the big screen. All a kid has to do is turn off the controls. DUH. Google knows this. Therefore, their image search engine is the perfect porn search engine. They have tied all their websites together to prevent anyone from blocking their images without blocking the main search engine. Doesn’t matter to me. I helped my school set up OpenDNS to block Google 100%. I block it at home on all my computers. And if parents are smart, they will do the same. The Internet has become a place of corruption. And children don’t belong on it.