Microsoft’s New Weapon Against Google: Coffee Mugs and T-Shirts

Full of steaming FUD.

Microsoft has taken its anti-Google campaign up another notch, with the launch of an online store that sells “Scroogled” products. Because what cool kid doesn’t want to show up at school or the office with a shirt or coffee mug that accuses Google of rapacious data harvesting?

“Google’s the spider. You’re the fly. You probably know what happens next,” reads the ad copy for the Scroogled Spider Web T-Shirt.

“Perfect for anyone who’s full caffeinated and tired of being Scroogled,” reads the blurb below the image of the Scroogled coffee mug.

Never mind, of course, that Microsoft also seeks to monetize its users’ digital lives, or that it vacuums up enormous amounts of data via its Bing search engine. And never mind that Google indirectly contributes billions to Microsoft’s bottom line, thanks to the latter’s aggressive “Android licensing” strategy. Such nuances have no place in what’s clearly an attempt at FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt).

Microsoft’s Scroogled campaign is the brainchild of Mark Penn, who once served as a political operator for the Clintons (and served as a key strategist on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential campaign). While in Microsoft’s employ, Penn has designed numerous television commercials and advertising campaigns that portray Google as an avaricious beast. “Microsoft… has realized that it cannot rely only on regulators to scrutinize Google — which is where Mr. Penn comes in,” The New York Times reported in December 2012. “He is increasing the urgency of Microsoft’s efforts and focusing on their more public side.”

Despite the ferocity of the Scroogled campaign, Google executives have shown little public interest in pushing back against Microsoft’s claims. “Our focus is on Google and the positive impact our industry has on society, not the competition,” a spokesperson for the search-engine giant told the Times after its Penn piece ran. Nor does Google need to respond: the battle lines between it and Microsoft have shifted little in the past few years, with Google continuing to dominate the lion’s share of online search; if that wasn’t bad enough for Microsoft, the Windows Phone platform has made precious little headway against Google Android, which commands the majority of the mobile-device OS market.

That likely won’t stop Microsoft from continuing the Scroogled campaign. But who, outside of Redmond, would actually buy those coffee mugs and t-shirts? And doesn’t using Google’s trademarked logos and fonts on those commercialized products violate some sort of intellectual-property law?

Update: The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) suggested in an email that Microsoft’s use of Google’s intellectual property in this context falls under “Fair Use.”

Image: Microsoft