BLINK, Microsoft Trademarks and Google Blink - A Sordid Affair

By Tony Rizzo April 15, 2013

Ok, we’re kidding about "sordid" but here Microsoft and Google may very possibly once again be "ignobly" going at each other over more or less nothing at all. Back on April 3, 2013 Google claimed that it would fork WebKit and create and start using a new Web browser rendering engine of its own, which the company has decided to label Blink.

We've provided some initial thoughts on Blink focusing on Google's efforts, as well on how and why it will be used as part of Google's Chrome browser efforts. Blink will become Chrome's new rendering engine.

It turns out that six days later, on April 9, 2013, Microsoft filed a trademark application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), specifically targeting the term "Blink." Now, before we get into any Microsoft vs. Google issues or notions of war over the least tiny things, it is worth noting that Microsoft does in fact have a Windows Phone 8 app in hand that it calls BLINK (in all uppercase).

It’s a photo app that allows for burst mode shooting, and below is a video that demonstrates and describes what Blink is and what it does.

BLINK lets you shoot 16 shots with one shutter click and then a user can select the best shot among them to retain. It resembles to some degree, Samsung's new Galaxy S4 camera feature, Eraser, which allows users to select images from a number that have been taken to erase certain things from a photo image.

Meanwhile, Samsung also has a "blink" feature coming with its Galaxy S facial recognition software which requires a user to blink before the camera confirms it has recognized a given face (this is related issues of fooling the facial recognition feature with a static photo).

To be clear about it, Microsoft's BLINK definitely hit the public before Google announced Blink. Google's use of the term "Blink" is likely a reference to the old and now deprecated <blink> HTML tag, which allowed webpages to have blinking text.

However, there is absolutely no clue anywhere that Google chose Blink because Microsoft has BLINK out in the field.

Meanwhile, BLINK, a Microsoft Research project, doesn't strike us as something Microsoft would have ordinarily tried to get a trademark on. There was no early indication that Microsoft would do so - though of course there is no reason to think that Microsoft was not planning to do so. Perhaps the company was going to send an entire collection of feature/app names over to USPTO at the some future point.

But here we are with a single BLINK trademark application showing up a mere six days after Google released the Blink announcement.

If the trademark is granted - though there is no reason to think the USPTO will grant a trademark, will Microsoft then send Google a cease and desist notice? Can there ever be any confusion between Microsoft's BLINK photo app and Google's Blink Chrome engine name? We find it hard to imagine that there can ever be any such confusion. Blink as Google uses it as really a tech and tech developer term, not something that a consumer market would be focused on - any more than WebKit is.

And developers certainly will never confuse a consumer smartphone camera app with Google's Blink.

But here we are, with Microsoft filing a trademark that could conceivably require Google to change Blink to...uhm, how about Wink?

Edited by Braden Becker

TechZone360 Senior Editor

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