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Will You Vanguard?

According to today’s New York Times, mutual fund behemoth Vanguard is launching an ad campaign that turns “Vanguard” into a verb.

Curiously, the Times report contains nary a hint of the trademark lawyer’s common anxiety that using a mark as a verb runs the risk of causing a loss of distinctiveness and perhaps even genericide.  Google and “to Google” is perhaps the best known recent example of a company struggling with corporate policy with respect to a mark that has been appropriated as a verb (a synonym for search, often) by popular culture.  Initially, Google tried to spin the appropriation as a complement to its trademark program; it believed that people were saying “to Google” and referring to the Google search technology.  (Somewhere, I have an old issue of an ABA IP Section newsletter with a piece by Google’s trademark counsel.)  Later, it shifted course.  [Some context for the latter, here.]