Earlier this week Larry Page announced that Google was no longer the main company he and Sergey Brin would be working for. Instead, Alphabet has been formed as an umbrella company which counts Google and a growing range of other businesses as subsidiaries. The problem is, Alphabet is quite a popular name in the business world, and therefore it’s already being used by a lot of other companies.
The choice of abc.xyz as the web domain for Alphabet may seem like a clever one, but it could have been chosen out of necessity. Alphabet.com would be most company’s first choice of domain, but Page can’t use that because German car maker BMW already owns and uses it. BMW has confirmed it has no intention of letting Larry Page have it. The car maker also owns an Alphabet trademark and is reviewing whether trademark infringement is being committed by the American company. So, what to do after registering a trademark? in this case, even though BMW has the trademark of the alphabet and its .com domain, there is a threat of infringing. Therefore, one should regularly monitor their trademark to maintain its integrity and to avoid trademark violation.
I suspect Larry Page doesn’t really care for one simple reason: Alphabet is not meant to be a brand, it is not meant to be a publicly well-known word associated with the former Google CEO’s business ventures. Alphabet is a quiet umbrella company managing the brands that are meant to be big, such as Google, Calico, Nest, and I’m sure many more to come.
Other companies that have Alphabet in their name may complain, but they have little to worry about. In fact, the association may bring their company more exposure, at least in the short term. BMW could cause a problem if it decides to sue Alphabet for trademark infringement, but it would be a weak case considering BMW uses Alphabet in relation to servicing corporate vehicle fleets, where as Page’s Alphabet is all about tech and life science company management. If it ever went to court some settlement would be reached where both companies continue to use the name with some lines drawn in the sand.
We will continue to hear about Alphabet in the short term as it establishes itself, but after that it will be only mentioned in relation to “new Alphabet subsidiary X created” after which the X becomes the public focus.