Simon Poole explained the situation in a note on the talk@openstreetmap list on February 1.
As you may have noticed we have removed all links displaying the Google geocoding service from the [OpenStreetMap] wiki. These changes are a consequence of a legal issue with respect to the trademark GEOCODE owned by Geocode, Inc. of Alexandria, Virginia, USA. There are likely to be further related edits and changes both on the wiki and the help site. Please do not add such removed links back or undo any such edits. If you find use of the term “geocode” on our wiki or help site please replace it with a generic term (for example "search"), or report it to my e-mail address.
He goes on to say that the term is incidental to what OpenStreetMap does and asked that concerns be addresses to him directly, rather than publicly on the list.
That did not sit well with the OSM community, which responded publicly. Some asked for more information. Others suggest OSM fight whatever threat was made. Still others felt leaving that task to Google (with its piles of money) was the best course. Others suggest moving servers out the U.S. where the trademark is held. Some praise the Board of Directors for its decision; othersthreaten to leave work unfinished in protest of the decision.
The trademark is from 2005 and is currently assigned to Geocode, Inc. If I understand this "FIRST USE: 19990726. FIRST USE IN COMMERCE: 20000726" correctly, the first use was July 26, 1999 and the first use in commerce was July 26, 2000. Geocode, Inc. seems to be out of Eau Claire Wisconsin and may be an 8A company, but I could not find an active website. There's also a location in Florida (a state which has excellent open data) so you can see the principles. The owner is a woman, supporting an 8A designation.
Interestingly, the GEOCODE GLOBAL trademark was held by Harvard Design and Mapping (I used to work out of their offices) and is now owned by CoreLogic.
Exaclty how this will play out at OSM is unclear. This may be a warning shot over the bow for the rest of the industry.