Alphabet? Google may get some letters

NEW YORK (TIP): One can only assume that before Larry Page and Sergey Brin chose Alphabet as the name for their new holding company, they Googled it.

If so, they would have discovered that the internet domain, as well as the trademark Alphabet, already belonged to someone else — the German automaker BMW. And, if they had dialled BMW headquarters in Munich, they would have discovered something else: BMW does not want to sell.

Alphabet is the name that Page and Brin, Google’s founders, have given the newly created parent entity that will house the Google search business and several smaller holdings like Nest, a maker of smart thermostats, and Calico, a company focused on longevity.

The name isn’t just causing waves with BMW. On Wall Street, there is an Alphabet Funds. Lots of midsize and small companies also use the name Alphabet. There is an Alphabet Energy in Hayward, California, an Alphabet Record Company in Austin, Texas; an Alphabet Plumbing in Prescott, Ariz; and numerous preschools, inns and restaurants with some variation of the name.

For many, the brush with Google’s aura is an interesting curiosity.

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“It’s quite flattering really,” said Steve Lockwood, the company secretary of Alphabet, a small recruitment and outsourcing firm in London. “We probably won’t put it on the agenda to sue them over it, but if they want to make us a very generous offer for our domain names, we’ll certainly consider it.”

Others had a problem with Google showing up as Alphabet. “We do all of our business online, and Google could really affect us,” said Jennifer Blakeley, who in 2008 registered Alphabet Photography as an online retail store selling printed photos of buildings and natural formations that look like letters. Yet legal action seems difficult. “Who sues Google?” said Blakeley, who is based in Niagara Falls, Ontario.

At BMW, Alphabet is the name of a subsidiary that provides services to corporations with vehicle fleets.

A BMW spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the automaker was not informed ahead of time of plans by Mr Page and Mr Brin to create a company called Alphabet and had not received any offers to buy the Internet domain or the trademark.

“We are not planning to sell the domain,” said Micaela Sandstede, a BMW spokeswoman in Munich. She described the website as a “very active” part of Alphabet’s business.

BMW is examining whether any trademark infringement has taken place, Sandstede said.

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Volume 10 Issue 41 | New York | Oct 21

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