Back in 2007, we wrote about Groovle, a site that lets you skin Google with your favorite image, and serves results through Google’s Custom Search. It seems that Google wasn’t much of a fan though: the search giant sought to take control over the domain name, alleging that it would confuse users. Today comes word that their request has been denied by the National Arbitration Forum, in what Groovle believes is only Google’s second such defeat.
Google initially sent Groovle an Email on July 29 demanding that they hand the domain over. In response to Google’s initial complaints, Groovle modified the site design to make it more distinct and added a disclaimer to explicitly say it was not affiliated with Google, but that wasn’t enough to placate them. It’s not hard to guess why Google was concerned. Groovle, while not simply a typo away from Google’s name, does share quite a few letters in common, and the primary purpose of the site is to search Google’s index.
Groovle’s defense includes a number of arguments, but the one that resonated with the NAF is that its name stems from the words “Groovy” and “Groove”, rather than “Google”. It may not sound like a big difference, but those extra letters proved to be enough to win the case. From the decision:
Respondent contends that its domain name is sufficiently differentiated from Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. Respondent argues that the disputed domain name is not a misspelling of Complainant’s mark; Respondent asserts that the disputed domain name contains the significant letters “r” and “v” which serve to distinguish the sound, appearance, meaning, and connotation of “groovle” from Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. Furthermore, Respondent contends that its alterations clearly transform the predominant word of the domain name to “groove” or “groovy,” not GOOGLE. Respondent contends that these alterations are sufficient to distinguish its domain name from Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. The Panel agrees and finds that Respondent’s domain name is not confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark under Policy ¶ 4(a)(i). See Google, Inc. v. Wolfe, FA 275419 (Nat. Arb. Forum July 18, 2004) (“The domain name is not confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark. The dissimilar letters in the domain name are sufficiently different to make it distinguishable from Complainant’s mark because the domain name creates an entirely new word and conveys an entirely singular meaning from the mark.”).
Groovle also notes in the filing that Google has brought forty-nine UDRP complaints to the NAF, and another sixteen to the World Intellectual Property Organization, over the Google trademark. It has only lost once before now, in the case of “Froogles.com” (which is what the decision quoted above refers to).
Of course, Google can simply cut off access to its Custom Search if it really wants to. Its Terms of Service includes relevant passages like “Google may change, suspend or discontinue all or any aspect of the Service, including their availability, at any time, and may terminate Your use of the Service at any time.” But even if that happens, Groovle can switch to use a different search API, like Yahoo’s BOSS or Bing.
Other options for customizing your Google experience include WebMynd, which lets you tweak the appearance and layout of your Google search results (Groovle only affects the initial landing page — your search results have the standard layout).