first published: 2016/12/07, last updated: 2016/12/15

is recaptcha just a brand, or a trademark?

recaptcha is a brand

even while it was being in the cmu hands recaptcha was a quite big brand. the cmu public relations team did an amazing job with its 2007/05 launch campaign.
then in 2009/09 the google acquired it from the cmu, and google spin-doctors are pushing it relentlessly ever-since.
there is no doubt if recaptcha is a brand -- and a huge one on top of it.

the word recaptcha is not a registered trademark

because of whatever reason, the cmu never registered the word recaptcha as a trademark.
and as we were not in the cmu offices in that time, and have no access neither to their (email) archives, nor to people involved, we can only guess why.

one hint might be that in 2004/10 cmu filled for the registration of the 'captcha' (word) trademark -- only to abandon that registration because of unknown reasons in 2008/04.
maybe the cmu wanted to give the captcha word to the world. it would be a nice gesture -- but it seems unlikely.
maybe the cmu realised that the word captcha became generic already -- thus invalidating the trademark -- and it didn't want to throw good money after bad money into the trademark registration fees.

maybe the recaptcha (word) was not registered as a trademark, by the cmu, because of the same or similar reasons; maybe not; we do not know.

as of the time of this writing (2016/12/08), google never filled to register the recaptcha (word) as a trademark neither.
check for yourself at the uspto trademark search.

but trademarks might be valid even if unregistered

for recaptcha trademark to be valid, it has to be used, claimed, and enforced -- but not necessary registered.
and both the cmu and google were certainly using it.

and some trademarks might not be valid at all

however, in the sources we managed to check so far we couldn't find any trace of evidence that google was ever claiming the recaptcha (word) trademark -- what we guess does not bode well for them.
we are unsure if the cmu ever claimed the recaptcha (word) trademark. but if cmu wasn't either, trademark-wise, google situation might just get worse.

unless, just slapping the '™' sign on the old recaptcha (logo) can be legally valid claim of trademark on the recaptcha (word) -- what we are very sceptical about.

and even then, we believe that there are still problems with the lack of oversight of use, dilution, and the lack of enforcement.
considering how widespread is the use of recaptcha (word) in the naming of 3rd party products, those things should render the recaptcha (word) trademark invalid.
and we could not manage to find any trace of evidence that google ever tried to control its use or enforce it.

then again, the old recaptcha logo is very likely a valid trademark

said that, we know nothing about logo trademarks in general, and have like zero interest in recaptcha logos in particular.

recaptcha trademark: final words

we do not believe in validity of the recaptcha (word) trademark.
we think that google will have to clear numerous hurdles if it will have to prove it is valid.

but it does not mean that if left unprovoked we plan to actively test it.
recaptcha.sucks itself is a free-speech / gripe-site and as such mostly unaffected by it.

unless google invokes the recaptcha trademark argument in the monopoly abuse case -- their trademark, or lack of it, is simply none of our business.
at least at present, recaptcha.sucks is not in the 'business' of proving it non-existent, or invalidating it.

however, due to monopoly abuse issue, we would like to be prepared.
we would like to know the exact legal standing of recaptcha trademark -- and have a detailed cookbook how to struck it down if needed.

a part of trademark checks we did:

reading manual:

the reader of this article has to take into account several things: if this entire recaptcha trademark thing appear to you as being complicated, it is because it is complicated.

after comments section on this page is going to be opened, your contributions in the form of:
missing info, fact-checks, what to subpoena tips, legal tips, comments, and analyses will be more than welcome.
as your contributions will be flowing in -- we will be fixing the article accordingly.

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