I am not surprised that the Trademark Office has refused the application filed by Google in respect of the Nexus One smartphone trademark. What does surprise me, however, is that Google went ahead and chanced its arm with the application when a cursory search would have shown that a similar trademark was already in use and therefore likely to cause market and brand confusion if granted.
That's certainly the conclusion that the Trademark Office itself has arrived at in issuing a Section 2(d) Refusal notice, on 'likelihood of confusion' grounds.
Google filed its application in December 2009, while a whole year earlier a trademark (3554195) for the Nexus mark was granted to a company called Integra Telecom. OK, so that earlier trademark does not apply to a smartphone, but it does relate to the provision of telecommunication services including the voice and data transmissions which, in my book and perhaps a little more importantly that of the Trademark Office, comes close enough for the potential to confuse the average punter. The same argument applies to the fact that Google is after Nexus One and not simply Nexus as already registered.
Indeed, the Trademark Office in issuing that notice of refusal state that the similarity of the goods, services, trade channels and name itself were sufficient cause to turn Google down, adding that simply because the goods/services in question were not identical or even in direct competition with each other was not enough to prevent said confusion.
Google has yet to make an official comment on the refusal ruling, but industry watchers expect the search giant to appeal against the notice on the grounds that actually there is no likelihood of confusion at all. Google has six months in which to decide if it wants to appeal which, to be frank, appears to have little chance of success given the grounds for refusal already stated by the Trademark Office.
Given the investment already made in the Nexus smartphone brand and the amount of money that Google has in the bank, it might be possible that Google will simply offer to buy the name, and trademark registration, from Integra Telecom. That, or as some of my more cynical colleagues have suggested, start throwing some of that money in the direction of threats of litigation (although on quite what grounds is beyond me to be honest) until Integra backs down and agrees to Google registering the mark.
Financial settlements in such trademark disputes are not without precedent, Apple negotiated a settlement with Cisco which owned the iPhone trademark for example and Microsoft did the same to ensure the rights to the Internet Explorer trademark.
Apple, Microsoft and now Google - crikey, you would have thought they could afford to employ someone to check out trademarks before they started branding goods and services, wouldn't you?