We promise not to be evil.
But we can’t speak for our lawyers.

Google’s oft-quoted credo “don’t be evil” started looking rather quaint last week with the appearance of a gentle suggestion on the Google blog that we try to refrain from using “Google” as a verb, particularly to signify an action taken on a competitor’s search engine. Apparently it makes the trademark lawyers uncomfortable. And you can almost hear the unwritten line that follows, “and you wouldn’t like our lawyers when they’re uncomfortable.”

As defenses go, this one is a few paces shy of “vigourous.” So I wouldn’t start calling Google an “evil empire” quite yet, in spite of their recent Katamari-like consumption of the staggeringly popular video site YouTube. But this is certainly the dangerous end of the “vigourous defense” wedge, the same sledgehammer with which Intel crushed the fly-like non-profit San Francisco fitness-for-ex-cons (I’m not making this up) outfit Yoga Inside, and the same legal logic that led some poor schmuck of a copywriter to pen the line “stop sweeping and start swiffering,” when it’s obvious to anyone who claims a passing familiarity with the English language that what one does with a device called a swiffer is “swiff.”