Why the Term “SEO” Isn’t Trademarked

If you’re working on ramping up your company’s digital marketing efforts, you’ve almost certainly come across the term “SEO” at some point. Search engine optimization refers to the set of techniques and practices that position any given webpage to perform better in search engine results pages (SERPs). This is significant because, the higher a webpage appears on SERPs, the more traffic it will get. The more traffic it gets, the more customers the company gets. You may be wondering why the term “SEO” hasn’t been trademarked. Actually, someone attempted to do just that.

Introducing Jason Gambert

Jason Gambert is an individual who, back in April of 2008, attempted to trademark the term “SEO.” Gambert’s bid to trademark this widely used industry term was based in part on his claim that he had coined the term in an email in 2007. He also claimed that this term is a service mark for the delivery of his digital marketing services. Inexplicably, Gambert’s application managed to pass the preliminary review by the attorney at the Trademark Office (TMO).

Understanding Why Jason Gambert Failed to Trademark SEO

However, Gambert’s attempt at registering “SEO” as a trademark ultimately failed, thanks to a few different factors. First, SEO is a widely used industry term. To trademark it would be akin to a financial advisor attempting to trademark the term “compound interest.”

Secondly, Gambert wasn’t the person who coined the term. That honor actually belongs to Bob Heyman and Leland Harden. They came up with “search engine optimization” way back in 1995. The duo solidified their claim to the term in a book they published in 1997 called Net Results.

In this book, Heyman recounts how he received a call at his home from the manager of the rock band Jefferson Starship. The manager was upset because the band’s official website had ranked below other, unofficial webpages in a SERP. Apparently, the manager had attempted to demonstrate to a club promoter that, because the band had its own website, it was a hip band to book. However, the manager forgot the URL and had to search for it. He became irate when he had to look through a few results before finding the right one. As a result, Heyman and Harden came up with the idea of optimizing websites to improve search engine rankings.

However, Gambert’s false claim that he had been the one to coin the term “SEO” wasn’t the only reason why his registration failed. Other digital marketers got wind of the trademark application and launched a vigorous campaign against it. In fact, one longtime SEO expert, Rhea Drysdale, invested her own time and money into defeating the application, hiring lawyers to block Gambert’s efforts.

In addition, Gambert apparently wasn’t too savvy when it came to dealing with legal procedures. He filed a motion asking for a default judgment because opposing parties had never properly delivered their opposition paperwork. In fact, they had—Gambert simply never bothered to pick up his mail.

How You Can Utilize SEO

It’s tricky to practice good SEO. After all, Google sometimes changes their algorithms, and SEO best practices evolve over time. Instead of trying to do everything yourself, you can put your company’s growth objectives into the hands of the SEO experts at Pennington Creative. Get in touch today to request a discovery session.

About the Author

Jacky - Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting
Jacky Gilchrist

Digital Marketing Specialist, Copywriting