BMW Investigates Possible Trademark Infringement By Google’s ‘Alphabet’ Parent Entity Branding

It's reasonable to think that Google did its due diligence when settling on "Alphabet" as the name for its new holding company. And if so, we can also assume that Google's co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin were well aware that a not-so-little company called BMW owns the trademark for Alphabet, along with the domain.

So why step on BMW's toes (or tires, as it were) when the company could have chosen a different name? That's a good question, and if BMW decides to sue Google, it's one that might be answered in court. Or the two sides could settle things privately, though if that's to happen, Google will have to come up with one heck of an offer.

A BMW spokeswoman told The New York Times that nobody at Google contacted the company ahead of time about plans by Page and Brin to create a company called Alphabet, nor were there any offers to buy the trademark or accompanying domain. The spokeswoman also said that BMW has no plans to sell the domain, which she described as a "very active" part of Alphabet's business.

BMW doesn't have any plans to sell its domain

BMW confirmed that it's investigating the issue to see if any trademark infringement is taking place, which would be grounds for a lawsuit. This is where things get tricky. Using a name that another company already uses doesn't automatically qualify as trademark infringement. That only occurs when doing so could create confusion among consumers.

That will likely be something that BMW's and Google's lawyers debate in the coming weeks and months. Whereas Google's newly form Alphabet is a holding company, BMW's Alphabet is a subsidiary that provides services to corporations with vehicle fleets.

One of the things Google has been working on for the past several years is self-driving vehicle technology. That now falls under the Alphabet umbrella, and since BMW's Alphabet is also involved with vehicles -- albeit not self-driving ones -- BMW could argue that as a point of confusion.

BMW isn't the only one that may have a dog in this fight. There are lots of businesses that use Alphabet in the name, including Alphabet Energy in Hayward, California, and Alphabet Photography, to name just two.