There is no dispute that one of the major phenomenon that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic is the high volume of using the services provided by ZOOM VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

We all know it. Some of us kept contact via ZOOM with family and friends. Some of us celebrated events (even Passover) via ZOOM. Some of us maintained (and still do) business meetings using ZOOM. And our children use it for online studying.

This raises an interesting question from the world of trademarks – is the mark “zoom” bear distinctive character or have we wined a new verb to our dictionary??

Worldwide societies embraced this verb into its colloquial language: “let’s zoom” (meaning let’s digital meet on zoom’s platform); “don’t zoom out” (meaning don’t leave the zoom meeting); “are you in the middle of zooming?” (meaning, are you participating in a digital meeting on zoom’s platform); “can I interfere your zoom?”; “can you open a zoom?”; “zoom-therapy” and so on… These are just a few examples of how we use this verb in our everyday lives. But are we allowed to do so legally?

A swift research revealed that the word “zoom” was first used in the 19 century, to describe a low, continuous humming sound. The slang term “zoom climb” was used by World War I pilots to describe the exciting capabilities of airplanes, that make a sound when a full opening action of the aircraft’s throttle happens, and a quick upward ascent of the jet occurs.

The second “zoom” came in the 1950’s when Frank c. Buck invented a new type of lens used to photograph physically distant objects and bring it closer as a photo.  The innovation has become useful in many contexts and so was the word “zoom”.

The third famous use of the word “zoom” came, as stated, alongside Covid-19, and expended the use of the word even further.

“And legally” you ask?

Israeli online trademark database reveals many trademarks that use the term “zoom” for different services and goods. Some are registered and some are not.

ZOOM VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS, INC. have filed in May 2020 two new Israeli trademark applications for goods under class 9 for downloadable computer software for live digital communications, namely, live video and audio conferencing with multiple simultaneous users, teleconferencing, network conferencing, web conferencing, text messaging, instant messaging and videotexting  and for similar SaaS services under class 42.

The examination of these marks is pending and one can only guess what the Israeli Trademark Office’s refusals (if any) will be based on, but I am more interested in the question of whether the term “ZOOM” has become generic already in respect of digital communications goods and services or would become generic very quickly due to the massive slang use of the word and surrounding vocabulary created in the passing months.

This is not a question for a short article but raising it, sure brings us closer to the answer.

And with that – I am zooming out.

BL&Z is a boutique law firm that provide Intellectual Property prosecution and litigation services and general commercial legal counsel, including handling of  complex trademark cases.

Adi Barkan-Lev

About Adi Barkan-Lev

An experienced attorney specializing in Intellectual Property matters. Providing consulting, prosecution and legal services in all areas of Intellectual Property, including copyrights, trademarks, industrial designs, patents, commercial wrongs, counterfeit goods and imitations.