Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.
Donna Wentworth @ Copyfight
ACS Sues Google Over "Scholar" Trademark

Because when we think about scholarship and online research, we think about the American Chemical Society (ACS).

Or maybe not.

Story here.


As Jon Stewart would say... Please stop. Can't we just get along. Ugh.


Well, the products sound similar to me. It isn't a trademark on scholarship. it's a trademark on 'scholar'. I have no knowledge of this other product, but the whole thing seems a bit confusing.

Just because Google happens to be the king of the search engine jungle doesn't give it divine rights.

But "scholar" seems like a pretty generic word for a service that searches scholarly texts...

The whole thing is stupid. It is just like that stupid company a month or so ago, sueing Dell because they supposedly owned a patent on using the Web for international commerce...

And now come those chemists and sue Google because Google finds a fantastic way to do for free something they were doing before, but for a fee and restricted to the Chemistry field... Have you tried Google Scholar? The product is great! The results are significantly better in terms of accuracy and relevancy than any of the other search engines for scientific literature. And here come these chemists arguing that they own the word "scholar"... yeah, right! All these copyright crap is turning to be more and more stupid by the day. We should put together some sort of "High Court of the Common Sense" and impose a severe fine to anyone who comes trying to defend a product based on a stupid trademark or copyright issue... Welcome to the post-copyright economy!

But they aren't claiming ownership of the word are they? just that the name Google has chosen is similar, and the product is similar, and that there is room for confusion. Maybe these chemists' product isn't all that great, I don't care really, but on the face of the evidence, there is a lot of room for confusion.

Do you think that Google will allow other companies launch 'Scholar'-branded services? AOL Scholar? Yahoo Scholar? Reed Elsevier Scholar? Maybe that's what they plan to do, and if so, that's fair enough. (They don't appear to have registered a TM 'Google Scholar', interestingly enough, though it could still be in the works.)

The definition of 'scholar' in any dictionary I've looked at definitely does not come anywhere near encompassing 'service that searches scholarly texts'.

From Copyfight:

Update via a Copyfight reader: Adam Rosi Kessel has an analysis of the claims: "ACS claims that it, and its users, often refers to its service as 'SCHOLAR' and that Google's research tool operates under the name and trademark 'SCHOLAR.' This is apparently how they're going to try to get around the 'house mark' issue -- but I haven't found any instance of SCHOLAR alone on Google's site -- it always appears as GOOGLE SCHOLAR. They'll likely lose on the facts on this one."

If I remember correctly, when I doing Infoseek Japan, the US couldn't go after sites such as nyphoseek or euroseek because "seek" was a generic word. As long as Google sticks to "Google Scholar" I think they're alright. Is ACS scholar so widely used that people would mistake it? I've never heard of it, although I'm not a scholar so what would I know...

Antoin: I didn't mean that scholar mean searching for text, but that it was a pretty generic word to use to name such a service. Anyway, I'm going to go off and read some US Trademark Law stuff before I say anything else. ;-)

Do you think that Google will allow other companies launch 'Scholar'-branded services?

Actually Elsevier already have their own product, called Scopus (I mean, on top of ScienceDirect, their own web platform that gives access access to Elsevier's publications online). And a few other companies, publishers or others, have already cross-publisher search engines: EJS, Web Of Science, SwetsWise, CrossRef – powered by Google – etc...).

In this very lucrative field of STM publishing (Science, Technology, Medicine), the word "Academic" is used rather than Scholar. But it's a fine distinction...

Moreover, whether the search is free (Google) or paid (SciFinder, Scopus, EJS, SwetsWise, etc) is barely relevant in itself. Really, what publishers are selling is access to the full-text of the articles. This is why they also sell separately the metadata to link directly from a university's web platform to the articles. Access being granted only if you have paid the hefty subscription price per subscription or per package. So whatever Google has to offer, it will be as a search engine, and not as a content provider. Because the real good stuff anyway is behind firewalls...

ACS is also very commercial acute, for a non-profit society: it sells access to its electronic PDF files with a "moving wall" policy: from January 1, 2005, journals published in 2000 will be transferred to the archives package. Institutions subscribing to the "current years" package won't be able to see access them any longer, unless they buy the rights for archives.

In the end, it's just about money...

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