Google is Google, and Groovle is Groovle - and as Rudyard Kipling might have put it, never the twain shall meet.
In a decision dated December 24 but released on Wednesday, an independent arbitration board rejected Google's claim that Groovle, a website that provides what it calls "Your Groovy Custom Search Homepage" as a front end for Google search services, is using a domain name a bit too close for Mountain View's comfort.
The National Arbitration Forum, a self-described "international leader in arbitration and mediation services," was approved in 1999 by the internet overseers at ICANN as the go-to agency for domain-name dispute resolution. And so Google went to it last month to stop the Canadian start-up from using a name that Google claimed to be "nearly identical or confusingly similar" to their own.
"Registrant is clearly using Complainant’s famous GOOGLE Mark to attract internet users to its own website for commercial gain," Google's complaint reads, contending that "The fame and unique qualities of the GOOGLE Mark make it extremely unlikely that the Registrant created the Domain Name independently ... but clearly selected the Domain Name because of the confusingly similarity to the GOOGLE mark."
The Groovle folks - who at the bottom of their home page have the disclaimer "Groovle.com is not owned, operated, sponsored, or endorsed by Google™" - disagreed. "There is little or no likelihood of any confusion between Groovle.com and the Complainant," said the Groovelians. "The Complainant has not provided any evidence whatsoever of any actual confusion."
Groovle's reasoning is succinct and orthographical: "There is no misspelling of GOOGLE involved. The Disputed Domain Name contains an important 'R' and important 'V' that serve to distinguish the sound, appearance, meaning, and connotation of GROOVLE from GOOGLE. The addition of the 'R' and the 'V' clearly make the predominant word and meaning 'GROOVE' or 'GROOVY' rather than GOOGLE."
No references in either argument were made to the important 'L' or the important 'E'.
Google moved their argument into the realm of the surreal when discussing their only loss in 65 separate complaints to various agencies for GOOGLE mark infringement: the froogles.com discount-shopping website. "Assuming the <froogles.com> case was correctly decided," the Googlers noted, not giving an inch, "the situation presented here is distinguishable. In this case, the Domain Name begins with the letter 'G' as does Complainant's mark. The identical, most notable letter creates a stronger similarity to Complainant's GOOGLE mark than 'froogles.'"
In other words, Google argued, 'G' trumps 'R' and 'V'.
The National Arbitration Forum board members, however, didn't buy Google's argument, and ruled that "Respondent's <groovle.com> domain name is not confusingly similar to Complainant’s GOOGLE mark." Their decision ended with an emphatic "the Panel concludes that relief shall be DENIED."
Groovle remains Groovle, and groovy David has beaten Googliath. ®