Monthly Archives: March 2013

To Be Googleable or Ungoogleable – That’s the Question in the State of Sweden


Some brand names and trademarks have become generic words. “Hoovering” (brand name Hoover) in the UK is the generic word for vacuum cleaning. Aspirin (trademark of Bayer) has become a generic term to refer to any OTC painkiller.

Google is facing a similar dilemma. “To Google” nowadays refers to searching the internet – regardless of the search engine used. (I often joke that Descartes would have stated: “I can be googled, therefore I exist”)

Google addressed this threat its brand name in its IPO filing. Under the intellectual property heading of the risks section it said: “We also face risks associated with our trademarks. For example, there is a risk that the word “Google” could become so commonly used that it becomes synonymous with the word “search.” If this happens, we could lose protection for this trademark, which could result in other people using the word “Google” to refer to their own products, thus diminishing our brand.”

Google is therefore keeping track of all dangers of its brand name becoming generic. That’s why they objected to the Swedish term “ogooglebar” (“something that you can’t find on the web with the use of a search engine”). Google demanded that the Language Council of Sweden would change the term to “something you can’t find on the web with the use of Google search”.

The Language Council of Sweden refused and decided to drop the term “ungoogleable” from its list of new words. According to the Council’s spokesperson Ann Cederberg, “engaging Google’s lawyers took too much time and resources.” According to her, the Council therefore opted to remove the phrase from its 2012 list of new words. She furthermore stated that “ungoogleable” is already a popular word in Sweden.  Google will therefore have a uphill battle to stop Swedes from using it.

For Google, it’s a Catch-22 for Google. They are on one hand the most popular brand associated with web searching. But on the other hand, Google want to protect its brand to prevent it from becoming a generic word.

Personally, I agree with Google. After investing so much time and efforts in building its brand, Google is entitled to its brand name.

Do you agree with me? Or do you think that it is already out of Google’s hands? Please let me know!

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Germany’s Academic and Political Plagiarism Epidemic

Today Iderminister_-_h_2013 watched (and thoroughly enjoyed) the German movie “Der Minister”. It is a wonderful satire of the Guttenberg plagiarism scandal.
As it turns out, this clever satire is itself a work of plagiarism. Several great lines seem to be taken from TV series such as the iconic British “Yes Minister” series – more specifically:  “It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Minister: one sort folds up instantly; the other sort goes round and round in circles.”
The screenwriter Dorothee Schon justified it by stating that content was taken from the media collage surrounding Guttenberg. An interesting legal argument indeed!
To refresh your memory, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg was a charismatic German politician who served as the Minister of Defense under Angela Merkel. Guttenberg received his doctorate from the University of Bayreuth (founded in 1975 and located in Bavaria, Germany) in the year 2007. After it was found that he had plagiarized parts of his doctoral dissertation, the university revoked is doctorate. Once he was caught, Guttenberg left German politics all together in 2011. Hereinvented himself in the US.
Being an academic is a big deal in Germany. It helps with getting well-paid jobs and has substantial social standing. According to a  survey conducted by the German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”  18.5 % of MPs in the German Bundestag carry doctor or professor titles. It is obviously a big plus for becoming a Minister! According to law professor Prof. Dr.Volker Rieble of theLudwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germans suffer from “title arousal.” He points out that people in other countries are not as vain about their titles. (Israel is a good example – most people in middle and higher management have two academic degrees and seldom mention them). This obsession with academic titles obviously sparks the tendency to take short cuts to obtain the prized Dr. title.
As it turned out, the Guttenberg affair was not an isolated incident (as I originally thought). Following the Guttenberg debacle, several other German politicians were also caught in the act, including Prof. Dr. AnnetteSchavan who (ironically) served as the Minister of Education. Way back in 1980, she wrote a dissertation of a whopping 351 pages that had been gathering dust in the archives of the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf until an anonymous blogger (SchavanPlag on WordPress) published a long list of sections that were ripped off other works. TheUniversity ofDüsseldorf promptly stripped her of her Dr. title. She subsequently resigned her post in February 2013.
The German website “VroniPlag” is a living nightmare for German politicians that got their academic degree in a questionable way. The website states that: “VroniPlag Wiki is a scientific project without any political or commercial interests”. They obviously do a lot of due diligence.  Cave Doctor (Latin for: Dr. be aware)!
Other disgraced German politicians include:
  • Silvana Koch-Mehrin, former vice president of the European Parliament and member of the German Free Democratic Party, was stripped of her doctorate in 2011 by the University of Heidelberg;
  • Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a German member of the European Parliament, was stripped of his Ph. D. by the University of Bonn in 2011;
  • Florian Graf, another German politician, lost his Ph. D. once he confessed that he had lifted parts of other works without permission for his dissertation.
Will this be the end of it? Lean back and wait!
By the way, Angie aka Angela Merkel is officially Dr. Merkel since she holds a doctorate from the University of Leipzig.

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