Google slams Oz start-up with legal bid

Google slams Oz start-up with legal bid

Summary: An Australian online start-up called Groggle has received a legal letter from Google's lawyers requesting it cease trading and hand over its domain name groggle.com.au.

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TOPICS: Google
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An Australian online start-up called Groggle has received a legal letter from Google's lawyers requesting it cease trading and hand over its domain name groggle.com.au.

Groggle received the legal letter from Google's Australian lawyer Middletons on Thursday last week requesting the company cease trading under the name Groggle Pty Ltd and handover the domain name it had registered.

Google's Australian office declined to comment on the matter this morning.

Groggle was intended to be a location-based liquor price comparison website search service allowing consumers to find the cheapest liquor price in a particular area.

"Essentially, you look for a particular product, you type in your postcode and it directs you to the retailer with the cheapest price near you," Brisbane-based founder Cameron Collie told ZDNet Australia this morning. The site is currently in beta mode and was to launch in the coming months.

Cameron Collie and his business partner Alec Doughty have been working on the project for a number of months and registered "Groggle" with the Australian trademark office IP Australia on 28 September last year.

IP Australia approved the trademark filing on 4 February this year. Since that date there has been a 90-day period of time for opposition of the application, which ends Tuesday next week.

Google has requested the start-up withdraw its trademark application and change its name. The search giant also requested that Groggle transfer its domain name groggle.com.au to Google, provide a written acknowledgement that it infringed on Google's trademark, that it contravened the Trade Practices Act, that it committed the tort of passing off, and that the start-up will not use the word "Groggle" in the future.

Groggle founder Collie said the word "Groggle" was a play on words. In Australia "grog" is slang for alcohol.

"We wanted something kind of funky," Collie said. "We wanted Grogger originally, but we couldn't get that, so Groggle was funny and we didn't ever think it would ever be confused with Google."

Google has given the Australian start-up until 4pm Thursday to address its concerns. If the start-up does not meet Google's "demands" stated in its legal letter then it will lodge its opposition with IP Australia.

"If Groggle does not provide and comply with the above demands within the time specified, our client will lodge a notice of opposition with IP Australia opposing the registration of the mark," the Google legal letter sighted by ZDNet Australia said.

Google also pointed out in its legal letter that it had successfully opposed the registration of the trademark "GOOGLEBAY" in Australia.

The search giant pointed to the dispute resolution process offered by Australian domain name regulator auDA, where Google had ordered two domain name holders to transfer the domains googler.com.au and googlebay.com.au to Google.

Not only would Google lodge its opposition with IP Australia, it said in its legal letter to Groggle, but it would also lodge an injunction with the court.

Groggle founder Collie said it would be "a major inconvenience" to change its domain name. He also mentioned a number of other domains the start-up had registered — around nine — one of which he had to pay $2000 for.

He said he and his partner had spent "tens of thousand of dollars" on the business.

Topic: Google

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22 comments
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  • The bigger Google becomes, the less it bothers with it's old motto of "Do no evil". Shame, Google, Shame.
    cameronreilly
  • I'm no lawyer, but I'm pretty sure Groggle don't actually *have to* comply with the letter. Just ignore it and force Google to go through IP Australia. If IP Australia agrees with Google (which seems unlikely to me) then they're no worse off than they are now. If IP Australia sides with Groggle, then there's not much Google can do, as far as I'm aware.

    They could certainly sue, but if IP Australia rejects their claim then it seems unlikely that a court would accept them.
    Dean Harding
  • You are correct Dean, as the site does not look like google, design doesn't look like googles, and GROGGLE could be construed as GROG GOGGLES, google doesn't have much there.
    To be honest I would fight this but thats just me, one key point was that they threatened to take it to IP Australia if they didn't comply, instead of going straight to IP Australia, so it just shows they are all bark and no bite.
    DrunkMunki
  • I think Google and Apple are fighting each other for the title of 'biggest ba$tard'. These stupid civil claims that both companies continually launch on the little bloke is sickening and more designed to send the little bloke broke rather than a genuine desire to protect brand and corporate image.

    In most, if not all, cases, these claims are frivolous at best and are an insult to the intelligence of the general public, who Apple and Google claim would be confused by their allegations of close distinction between their names and those of their corporate prey. Both companies should pull their bloody heads in.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • Shame someone else had this idea first (Boozle)...
    davesquirrel
  • There are plenty of people trying to cash in on googles brand, they have the right to protect it just like any one else... This mob here http://www.freagle.com.au/ go as far as suggesting that was their plan on their about page.
    tastycarp
  • I think new businessmen have better things to do than inherit Google's bad reputation. By this I mean that they would not want people thinking they are as obnoxious and ham-fisted as Google. This is clearly about heaping crap on the people that can least afford it rather than anything to do with brand protection.

    After looking at Groggle's website I can clearly see a huge difference between the two companies. One is a search engine, the other isn't. One has pretty colours on its website, the other doesn't. Neither brand names or logos look anything alike and the industry that both companies participate in are vastly different.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • to Ben Grubb, the write of the article, i feel that your article is a little one sided ... how about telling the readers the full truth (the intriquite details of such are on another forums website) ...

    Cameron is trading under the business name of Liquor Price Comparison, so really there is not much link between his business name & his domain name of groggle (possible breach of auDA guidelines right there).

    Let the courts decide.
    westozzie81
  • What are you talking about? The website is owned by Groggle Pty Ltd, a company that was registered in 2007.
    Dean Harding
  • Yeah, all good 'bash the mega'company' comments, but let's remember one thing ... why did these guys want that name? Because it would stand out and get extra mileage due to its similarity with Google ... they are lying to say otherwise because it suits their commercial position to do so. And, Google's letter offers the chaps a chance to withdraw their application with no court costs. If they do not, and IP Australia opposition action is commenced, these guys will risk losing and paying for the legal costs involved in the opposition process. On the face of it, although their website appearance is different, I think that Google have no choice but to oppose it ... if they do not, they risk future trade mark registration of their own name (they currently claim 'TM' on their mark, which is not a registration, but it is a common law defensible mark). Who would honestly suggest that the term 'grog' and their choice of 'groggle' was just a coincidence that is sounds like 'google'? These guys are trying to cash in for free on someone else's brand ... they should do it tough and build up their own brand and stope squealing like pigs that someone who has built up a brand is protecting the resources used to do so.
    Do it Tough
  • Great rhetoric, Mel ... but if Google and others do not oppose these similar marks, then they risk losing IP protection on their own brand names. When trade marks become generic because of such use, they can no longer be registered ... and, in some cases, marks have been deregistered for that very reason ('Esky' is but one example). Generic or infringing use is objected to by any organisation that values its IP. Just becasue you don't like it doesn't make them a ba$tard. I don't think protection of your IP assets is any more wrong than you protecting your own property. Are you upset if someone steals your car, or just a ba$tard because you begrudge someone without one using yours? A touch emotional there, Mel, and not objective in the least.
    Do it Tough
  • Mel ... when you heard the name 'groggle' for a website, did you think of 'google' perchance? I know I did. Appearance and class of product/service is but one measure of infringement, but is not conclusive. Aural similarity is also considered. Also, potential infringement of famous brand names is treated differently to other similar sounding names because they are so well known. I don't think your argument is convincing.
    Do it Tough
  • "Mel ... when you heard the name 'groggle' for a website, did you think of 'google' perchance?"

    I only heard of the site via this thread, so the answer is no. The first thing I thought of was 'is this site related to beer, wine, spirits', etc and I think many other people would have thought the same thing. I'm not a Google fanboy so I don't have their name continually drumming through my head.

    The fact remains that the two names and the two websites AND the two businesses couldn't be more different.

    My argument doesn't really need to be convincing. Groggle doesn't require my support anymore than Google requires yours. Google's argument here doesn't hold any more water than Apple's case against Woolworths (and for the record Woolworths isn't my flavour of the month but I do think Apple's case is vexatious in the same way Google's is in this case.

    It's just two big companies being bullies. At the end of the day the big winners will be solicitors and barristers and there is a risk that a hard working businessman will be sent to the wall by a pack of American morons with nothing better to do with their time.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • If some of you guys want to rabbit on about some upstart flogging Google's brand then think of all the resources that Google scabs from other comanies and doesn't pay a cent for it. Google has locked horns with News Ltd and the Victorian Government in the past because of their flagrant breaches of corporate and Crown copyright and they think because they are big they can crap on everyone else. Another example is Google's Google Books product. These people think they can do what ever they bloody well like and then say 'we won't pay'. Their attitude stinks, putting it as politely as I can.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • I can't see any passing off. Groggle is nothing like Google and is a play on the household Australian term "grog". Small business needs to register names for websites and if companies like Google are going to try to quash anything that sounds remorely similar, then God help us. The owner of Groggle couldn't register grog.com.au or grogger.com.au, so it was an obvious move to register groggle.com.au.

    As for bashing mega companies comments", it's a joke for Google to claim foul play when it scans the worlds libraries and breeches writers' copyrights en masse, and feeds the world newpapers into its news site. They are the greatest acts of piracy ever seen.
    what_rubbish
  • Using your logic it would be ok fo me to launch a softdrink named popsi and as long as it had a different colour and label to pepsi that would be ok. It doesnt matter who it is if you are going to try a stunt like this (and let face it groggle knew why they chose that name) you deserve what you get and running off to the media crying big bad google is just a publicity stunt.
    tastycarp
  • No, that is not correct. If Groggle was a search engine and with the same target audience as Google then you'd be right but it's not and you are just being pedantic to try and win a debate.

    Groggle isn't a search engine, there's a far bigger difference in the two names than your example provides, the logos are vastly different and the websites are vastly different.

    Boy, the Google fanboys are out in force tonight aren't they. The pettiness is pathetic, really.
    Mel Sommersberg
  • What's the problem? Who's going to get the extra hits from typos? Somehow I think "Google" gets the extra hits, and even without Strayan heritage I'm not going to confuse "Google" with "Groggle" or vice-versa.

    Google: your public image is taking a beating so go back to what you do best--ranking searches by (ir)relevance.

    Look at the logos for MGM (with the lion) and MTM (with the kitten). One is clearly a play on the other but have people been confused by these over the last thirty years or so?

    Let's have some big Maths Association register themselves under the correct spelling of "Googal", and then start a case of their own!
    Treknology
  • Boozewatch.com.au has been running in WA for years. They even send you prices for your selection in your area for free. I dont have to keep going back to their website. Cheerz
    crownie2010
  • The correct spelling is actually "googol" if you're talking about the number. Spelling is "Google" for the search engine, though, is really no different to spelling it "Weet-bix" or the millions of other intentionally-misspelled brand names.
    Dean Harding