Google Lens Trademark Strategy?

A recent TV spot by Verizon demonstrates image search by Google Lens. Owners of a Pixel 3 smartphone learn that “you can search what you see”. The spokesman then snaps a photo of a man’s shoes and Google Lens searches where to buy those limited edition kicks. Google’s own Pixel 3 commercial tells a Lens user the “tangerines” he found are actually cherry tomatoes. No typing, no prior knowledge needed—just snap a pic. Windy City Trial Group believes this means a bump in value for image distinctive branding. You will need to enhance the “stand-out” quality of your products, logos, trademarks, websites or store layouts (trade dress). Successfully surf this new marketing wave and customers will find you before they find your competitors.

Most web surfers use a keyboard to enter keywords into Google, Bing or social media sites to search for products or services. Google Lens seeks to broaden how customers find products and services. Savvy business owners need to sharpen their branding strategy and leverage Google Lens technology.

Behind Google Lens.

Google Lens builds upon the company’s “reverse” image search, whereby a user uploads an image to search for information about the image’s subject. Google says it “… uses algorithms to determine which websites will be displayed in response to a user’s search queries and in what order those websites will appear.” As Google’s queries become more visual in nature, visually distinctive trademarks and websites/store layouts (trade dress) are more apt to land on page one of a Google search.

Picture this: a friend visiting his neighbor sees a dinner plate that your company manufactured. He takes a photo of the logo on the back of the plate. If your company’s logo is a “stand-out” for visual distinctiveness—like, say, the Coca-Cola bottle shape—Google Lens will recognize it and send the curious photographer directly to your website.

So Be Fanciful!

Google Lens also detects text, so using fanciful or arbitrary words to identify your product or service leads to more effective search results and bolster your already distinctive logo. If your plate simply said Green Dishes, Google Lens will not see that name as distinctive to your business. This also explains why such generic phrases are not eligible for trademarks. But name your dishes Giraffeware and this arbitrary word could find its way to page one on Google and your customer’s search results!

Bottom line: Time to look at your trademarks and trade dress though a Google Lens.

–Jonathan Safron