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Products use trademarked Google logos without permission

Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "Scroogled" campaign -- a series of sarcastic ads masterminded by Mark Penn, best-known as a campaign strategist for Bill and Hillary Clinton's respective Presidential runs -- was greeted with mixed reactions.  Some of the ads, which attacked Microsoft's search arch-rival Google Inc. (GOOG) -- bordered on being mildly humorous.  Others fell flat.

In the end Microsoft seemed to be letting the campaign quietly die down -- or so it seemed.

But while the broadcast ads tapered off, Microsoft has taken the campaign to the web.  Its latest attack -- which is featured on mugs, t-shirts, and other memorabilia available from the Microsoft store carrying various anti-Google slogans, including the familiar "Scroogled" parody of Google's colorful log.

Perhaps most eye-catching, though, is a fresh attack proclaiming:

Keep calm while we steal your data.
Scroogled

Zing! The quote on that hot cup of sass alludes to the internet company's snooping on citizens' open Wi-Fi networks via its StreetView cars.  Google claimed the data collection was "accidental" despite internal emails clearly stating that it was an attempt to collect informations on users to improve marketing.

So far Google has already been slapped with at least three fines internationally as officials declined to buy Google's excuses about "accidents".  Most recently Google was ordered to pay a $17M USD fine to U.S. federal regulators. It paid a separate $7M USD settlement to U.S. state regulators and a $189,000 USD settlement to regulators in Germany.  Google faces similar or potentially even bigger fines in other European Union member nations

Google Street View
Google claimed it snooped on users on "accident" despite internal emails revealing it did so for profit.  The company has been fined multiple times for the spying. [Image Source: Jacopast/Wikipedia]

In addition to mugs, the material is also printed on pre-washed T-shirts made from socially conscious fabrics.  The shirts are the work of American Apparel, Inc. (NYSEMKT:APP), the "fair-trade" espousing brand beloved by hipsters across the country.

The quote is surprisingly edgy and internet culture aware, as it seemingly hops on board the popular "Keep calm and carry on" meme, which was originally based on a  humorous World War II propoganda poster from the UK.

It's also somewhat surprising as the memorabilia uses Google's trademarked Chrome logo with no indication that Google permitted Microsoft to use it, or even an acknowledgement that Google is the logo's owner via a trademark or copyright symbol (trademarks are generally more appropriate, although often a broad set of design features is copyrighted or even patented).

Scroogled shirt

Google in fact appears to explicitly ban this, stating:

Don't display a Google Brand Feature in a manner that is in Google's sole opinion misleading, unfair, defamatory, infringing, libelous, disparaging, obscene or otherwise objectionable to Google.

Further common sense tells you that appropriating a company's well-known logo for use in selling your products is probably intellectual property theft.  And insulting the owner while using their logo to sell your products -- that's just adding insult to injury.

A Microsoft product description states:

A vintage line, reworked to reflect a modern problem. Printed on an American Apparel 50/50 t-shirt, pre-washed for minimal shrinkage.

Breathe in, breathe out. It won’t be long before Google has attempted to make money off of every aspect of your digital life. This t-shirt lets them know that you know. It's 50% cotton, 50% polyester blend, and pre-laundered for minimal shrinkage.

Again, there's no sign of any trademarks/etc. on the store page.

Keep calm scroogled

Edgy?  Trendy?  Illegal?  IP theft?  Funny?  It appears Microsoft's new campaign may be all the above.  It wouldn't be surprising to see this one wind up in court... but Google faces a lose-lose scenario as if it does sue Microsoft it's bringing attention to its own privacy offenses and risks looking losing its "cool cred" by appearing litigious.  

After his largely failed prior attempts, it appears Mike Penn has finally crafted a scenario in which Google just can't win.  His new product line marks a significant improvement in Microsoft's efforts to troll Google, practically begging them in a legal sense -- "Come at me, bro."

It should be interesting to see if Google responds.

Sources: Microsoft, Google Logo/Trademark Policy



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And we Thought
By Reclaimer77 on 11/20/2013 7:04:12 PM , Rating: -1
And we thought the Mac vs PC adds by Apple were tasteless and cheap? This takes the cake.

Does Microsoft really think this is the way to generate marketshare for Bing?




RE: And we Thought
By Tony Swash on 11/20/13, Rating: -1
RE: And we Thought
By wordsworm on 11/20/2013 8:00:49 PM , Rating: 2
I have to say that one of the best commercials of all time was Apple vs. IBM's 1984 parody.

Google isn't getting everything right... but they are involved in some very important work... the most important I see is what they're trying to do with autonomous vehicles. I'd go so far as to say that they're probably doing some of the most important work. It would be nice if regulators would acknowledge that and work on fixing issues rather than just firing fines at them willy nilly.


RE: And we Thought
By stm1185 on 11/20/2013 7:32:51 PM , Rating: 2
I use Chrome and I like the ads! Google has stolen data. It's a fact, and one their competitor's should mention.

Also the Chrome logo uses a white ring in the center while these have a black ring. I wonder if the legal team at MS thought that was enough of a change.


RE: And we Thought
By JasonMick (blog) on 11/20/2013 8:04:31 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Also the Chrome logo uses a white ring in the center while these have a black ring. I wonder if the legal team at MS thought that was enough of a change.
Perhaps, but unlikely given that Google's terms state... from the same page:

"One of the conditions for all uses is that you can't mess around with our marks. Only we get to do that. Don't remove, distort or alter any element of a Google Brand Feature. That includes modifying a Google trademark, for example, through hyphenation, combination or abbreviation, such as: Googliscious, Googlyoogly, GaGooglemania. Do not shorten, abbreviate, or create acronyms out of Google trademarks."

http://www.google.com/permissions/trademark/rules....

As someone pointed out below Microsoft could probably use the defense that it's using the material under fair use as a parody/satire. But given that it's for profit and that it's coming from a competitor it's hard to say whether a court would consider Microsoft's effort "art". i.e. Maybe a newspaper cartoonist can make satirical images of BP or Apple's logos, but it's doubtful Google could go and place Apple logo with...

"Think Dif f erent
............S u e
______- Apple "

...with the 'f' and 'u' and "Apple" highlighted and say "oh, we're within our rights, because that's a parody protected under artistic exceptions to IP laws!"

Like the Microsoft mug, it might be humorous, it might be true, it might even be worth it in terms of legal costs versus publicity, but it probably is technically violating intellectual property laws, as they stand in the U.S.

Still I'm pretty sure Microsoft wouldn't mind Google trying taking into court and bringing attention to the campaign.


RE: And we Thought
By rsmech on 11/21/2013 2:35:14 AM , Rating: 2
Your example of Google vs. Apple isn't the same. It's more opinion and slander. Where as there is some truth to the MS campaign. Not opinion and is truth slander?


RE: And we Thought
By ritualm on 11/21/2013 4:31:28 AM , Rating: 2
Truth... is just a matter of perspective.


RE: And we Thought
By JasonMick (blog) on 11/21/2013 11:29:50 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Your example of Google vs. Apple isn't the same. It's more opinion and slander.
Really?

Apple hasn't sued nearly every major Android OEM ? Ha... HAHAHA... thanks, I needed a good laugh.

You're real funny buddy.


RE: And we Thought
By Wazza1234 on 11/21/13, Rating: 0
RE: And we Thought
By retrospooty on 11/21/2013 6:32:22 PM , Rating: 2
Seriously testerguy you are beyond a joke at this point. It was funny for a while now its just sad.


RE: And we Thought
By JasonMick (blog) on 11/21/2013 9:21:58 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Your precious Android OEM's have tried to ban every iPhone and iPad so far and many have already had to drop their cases due to being under investigation.
As I said you're real funny bud. "My precious Android OEMs?" hahahaha oh man, good one. If you even marginally paid attention to my reviews pieces you'd know that I haven't owned an Android phone in nearly two years.

I have no horse in the Apple v. Android race as I'm a Windows Phone user. I'll admit Samsung's done some dirty things too... i.e. leaking court documents.

But let's face it, Samsung's goal was clearly never to copy Apple... it wanted to create something better than Apple. And it appears that more customers now appreciate it's products than Apple's... that's saying something.

And you can't give me the price excuse as you can get iPhones for very cheap these days.

But you keep telling yourself they're iPhone ripoffs.

................

But lest you think I "blame" Apple for everything, understand I don't... Apple is just doing what it can to maximize shareholder value. So is Samsung... so was Nokia. If anyone is "to blame" for the smartphone war's it's Nokia. But then again they are an industry pioneer and arguably have more of a justification be getting licensing fees than anyone... see the truth is complicated.

At the end of the day I wish companies would spend less time in the courts, and I support patent reform. But I don't blame Apple/Samsung/Nokia/whoever for suing each other.

I just think their suits are ridiculously silly.


RE: And we Thought
By Cheesew1z69 on 11/21/2013 9:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And it appears that more customers now appreciate it's products than Apple's... that's saying something.
And it just eats them up inside...LOL


RE: And we Thought
By Just Tom on 11/21/2013 12:24:16 PM , Rating: 2
Google can say whatever they want, however they do not make the laws. Microsoft has a pretty good argument for a nomative use defense here. There is no need to talk about parody or satire. If we did not allow for nomative use there would be no comparative advertising allowed.

The message here is pretty clear: Google steals your data, we don't. Such a message is legal and violates no trademarks.


RE: And we Thought
By Cheesew1z69 on 11/21/2013 1:10:33 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Nominative use, also "nominative fair use", is a legal doctrine that provides an affirmative defense to trademark infringement as enunciated by the United States Ninth Circuit,[1] by which a person may use the trademark of another as a reference to describe the other product, or to compare it to their own.
Doesn't sound like either of those...


RE: And we Thought
By Just Tom on 11/21/2013 1:23:15 PM , Rating: 2
It is describing the other product as stealing information.The criticism is explicit. Case law is fairly robust in this area. Remember the purpose of trademark law is pretty simple: To avoid consumer confusion. No reasonable person is going to believe that the tshirt or mug are Google products, there is no trademark dilution.

Google would be far more likely to sue if the underlying message of these items were untruthful. Case law does not protect nomative use when the message if fundamentally unthruthful.


RE: And we Thought
By DT_Reader on 11/21/2013 11:50:59 AM , Rating: 2
Other items for sale include the white ring, but they're on white items (T-shirts). The ones with black rings are on black items (T-shirts, mugs). It appears to simply be a case of no ink, allowing the underlying color to show through, not any attempt to alter the logo for legal reasons.


RE: And we Thought
By troysavary on 11/21/13, Rating: 0
RE: And we Thought
By Da W on 11/21/2013 8:53:33 AM , Rating: 1
Jesus. You sure sound offended as if you were Google. A pinch of fanboyism peraps?


RE: And we Thought
By EricMartello on 11/21/2013 11:42:26 AM , Rating: 1
You get more bang from an ad campaign that a large group of people find controversial enough to talk about - exactly because of articles like this one.

What I don't like about bing, aside from its name, is that it's trying too hard to copy google instead of just providing something new and better.

MS could have dethroned google's search engine dominance if they went for a more open approach. I'd like a search engine that provides accurate unfiltered, unbiased, uncensored results - not results that the underlying company or government deem appropriate.

Google and other search engines display their bias, especially politically, when they have certain search terms result in "statement" results. For example, google would automatically present 'positive spin' for misspellings of 'barack obama' (especially during the elections), while similar misspelled searches for 'George Bush' or 'Mitt Romney' would return satire and/or negative results.

We need to divorce big companies from having control or influence over search engines, and that's the type of service that will delete google. We do not need a copy of google's search with a slightly better looking website.


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