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Geico Takes Aim at Google for selling ads linked to trademarks
Trademarks battle enters new phase

 3:04 am on Sep 3, 2004 (gmt 0)





 3:31 am on Sep 3, 2004 (gmt 0)

Does this mean I can stop people using my trademarked company name as a "key word" in their adwords placing them above my natural listing?


 6:41 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

i hate to say it but it kind of makes sense. geico doesn't want ads for other insurance companies, insurance products, and insurance sites to pop up when a user types in "ge#co" on a search engine. Yet it's somewhat petty.

perhaps google's and yahoo's response should simply be to delete ge*co from their databases.


 6:42 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

It could also ultimately threaten their livelihood: Google and Overture make money by selling ads linked to keyword-triggered search results, and many commercially driven searches are tied to trademarked brands such as Geico or Nike.

As if Google or Overture stand to lose so much of their revenue that they would go out of business without it.


 6:48 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

They may not go out of business, but I guarantee it will cripple.

If Geico wins, it opens the floodgates for everyone to attack on the same grounds, and get their keywords excluded from being used. The amount of work that would have to be performed to make sure everyone is out (that needs to be), I would bet is substantial, costing even more money.

In the case of Google:
How much money (or what percentage of their overall income) is generated from AdWords?

I'm sure the same can be said for Overture.

I'm very interested to see how this plays out.


 7:21 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

Without AdWords Google might as well not exist from a commercial point of view ...


 8:32 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

This could well be a very long drawn out battle... could also end up being a class action too.

[edited by: oilman at 10:18 pm (utc) on Sep. 9, 2004]
[edit reason] watch the language please [/edit]


 8:52 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

"They may not go out of business, but I guarantee it will cripple. "

you're not taking into consideration, though, that this would hurt those that take out ads as well.

the consequence? people stop bidding on trademarks, but start looking harder for generic terms to bid on- and I almost guarantee you the average bid would rise.

it may not completely replace the revenue lost, but it sure would lessen the blow by an absolute ton.


 9:09 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

That's a very good argument. Although, if Google has to stop serving up trademarked terms, does anyone have any idea of how many terms that could actually be?

I guess once some numbers get thrown out as to how many terms would be "hands-off", we'll have a better idea as to the magnitude of this.

I still think this has great potential to be big.


 9:35 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I would think that any ban on trademarks would have to be an opt-out situation by the TM holder - probably most TM holders are happy to have their agents and resellers promoting the brand. Exceptions would be misleading sites that advertise one brand and sell another.

One sticky area would be overlapping or identical trademarks. While some trademarks are unique, many trademarks are shared by people in different businesses (e.g., a trademark used for software, industrial pipe, and apparel by different firms). Trying to untangle some of those would be hopeless, and a ban on using them would seem impossible. Similarly, many common words and phrases are trademarks in some contexts. Good luck...


 9:55 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

The fact of the matter is that Google is making money off the Geico name. If there was no Geico, no one would be seaching it and subsequently clicking on the ads. Although search engines and the Internet are tricky legal areas, the brunt of the case will come down to that and be hard for Google to defend.

In essence, this is a form of cyber-squating. Google is responsible for their servers and their ad space. If I placed an illegal ad on my webspace, I would get sued, not the company who wants to advertise there.

The solution will be incredibly tough as there are a lot of companies who have common terms in their trademarked name. Can we ban all trademarked names? By all means no.

The case will nonetheless be a landmark one. I think the solution may be that companies wishing to not have their trademarked name appear in the sponsored results can send it a trademark and Google will process it.


 10:44 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm in the UK and I've never heard of Geico.


 10:50 pm on Sep 9, 2004 (gmt 0)

This is nonsense. When people look in the yellow pages for specific brands like Geico they see other brands advertising on those pages. This is just the electronic version of the Yellow Pages. Trademarks are about not causing confusion about the origin of a product or service, for example if someone was calling themselves GayCo and selling the same products, not about "profiting from someone else's trademark". But it does serve Google and Yahoo right for patenting (or paying to use the patent) of ads triggered by keywords. I guess if you live by the overlitigious American sword you sometimes die by it.


 12:08 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

I'm not an expert on trademarks.......but I don't think Google can come away a winner here. Google is profiting directly from searches specifically for Geico's trademarked name...just thinking logically here......what use is a trademark if that can be allowed to happen?


 12:19 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Heres'how it all ends up.. remember it's ALL about money.

Geico does NOT want these ads to dissappear..they only want their piece of the pie!

Business 101

Geico is now in the drivers seat ..this will stil go to court ..but the decsion on how to handle something as complex as this will be made in the judges chambers.. Both sides will be forced into a settlement because if either side out right wins it would be chaos ..

it's just a matter of the correct formula to pay gieco a cut and every other TM that comes along..consider it a added value tax when it cost you more to bid on terms..that added value TM tax will be the portion that gets dived amoungst TM holders on each term


 12:50 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

The problem with the Yellow Pages argument is that you are advertising under Pizza , no one has a trademark on the name pizza. If you made a section called Pizza Hut and listed other pizza places under it, that would be a violation.

The fact is this. When you have a trademark, others can't profit off your trademark without your permission. It's no different than placing Google's logo on your site to make it look more professional (which they sure don't like). Google profits off the term Geico which would not be searched if it wasn't for the company. Geico deserves a fair cut.


 1:34 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Geico's big competitor on the right column has much better technology behind their web site. Instead of focusing on litigation, Geico could be improving their own web site. This is akin to reporting spammy sites instead of improving your own site.


 2:03 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

>Without AdWords Google might as well not exist from a commercial point of view ...

Yep. Google exists to deliver ads, not provide relevant search results.


 3:43 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google should just offer an opt-out option that would remove Geico from all search results and ads, as well as removing any pages from the index on domain names that contain the word.

Somehow I don't think they'll be opting out anytime soon.


 6:28 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

So, am I no longer allowed to advertise my fine double-glazed windows under the term "windows"?

What about a book on dealing with coke addictions?

Or how about a site to help people get visas before travelling?

Where is the line, and why?


 9:47 am on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

'Go Geico' is all I can say. Google's handling of many trademark issues is pretty laissez faire - hopefully now they'll have to sharpen up their policy.

Considering how strict they are with the use of their own trademarks this is especially poor.

And no, it won't cost Google that much. They already check your creatives and keywords for gambling and pharma keywords automatically - how much more would it cost to check it for trademarks from a database? Not that much and it certainly wouldn't send them bankrupt.

Also it is worth remembering here that if a business does not take steps to protect their trademarks - they could lose the right to exclusive use of that trademark.


 1:25 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

No current analogies work for this problem. That's why it needs a really good test case to sort it out.

The Yellow Pages comparison fails because everyone is positioned under their generic classification, so they all end up sitting next to each other anayway, albeit alphabetically.

The Display Ad analogy in the press works better. Here an ad sales rep will juggle the loyalty of his customers when considering placing competitor B next to or near competitor A, but will nevertheless consider it and will use their trademark as the determinant.

Google's behaviour is based on the advertiser's desire to sit near his competitor, which is more akin to the second analogy - or to a highstreet location - however, they do it, or rather we do it, automatically. But it is not Competitor A's paid-for advertising placement at stake but Google's already established first-amendment opinion about the relevance of a result. And let's face it there are thousands of sites out there that beat the trademark holder to first spot, anyway, in Google's opinion :-)

I hope that Gooogle fight this vigorously because I believe the consumers' best interests are being served by the current situation, and the reasons we have anti-competitive legislation is to encourage competition, which this does.

My feeling is that if a trademark owner can stop a competitor targeting their services in this way, then it amounts to a restraint of trade in this search-driven economy. And that is not a good thing.



 2:03 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Q. How much manpower would it take to ensure that no adwords advert is triggered by a Trademark, in the country in which the trademark is registered, except for those owned by the advertiser?

A. More than 80 Phds....

That's the Google problem....


 5:40 pm on Sep 10, 2004 (gmt 0)

Not that this is directly related to the issue of Copyright, etc .. but just thought this connection is interesting:

The Google twins (Sergey,Larry) made a big deal out their admiration of Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway) during their pre-IPO phase .. (Mr. Buffet even repaid the complement at some point).

Doesn't Warren Buffet own or otherwise have a controling interest in .. Geico?

(not offering a conspiracy theory here, just find this ironic!)


 1:39 am on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Does Google allow bidding on its own trademarks (e.g. "Google") in Adwords?


 8:34 pm on Sep 11, 2004 (gmt 0)

Haha, that is a good point dbowers. They sure don't(no adwords for a search for "Google").....they probably have that in the Adwords terms but is quite interesting that they don't allow it for THEIR trademark but allow ads for other company trademarks....


 3:49 pm on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

If Geico wins it will probably be a royal pain for legitimate advertisers. For example we advertise very successfully on a trademark all the time, but we are a licensed reseller and our spending the ad dollars is just fine with the trademark owners.

Now if Google has to police trademark issues they will just disallow all trademark ads, hurting many rightful advertisers. So it makes more sense for companies to police their own marks and go after individual advertisers that have no right to the mark. Google should probably institute an e-bay style vero program that might allow registered trademark owners to control who is advertising on their trademarks.


 10:28 pm on Sep 13, 2004 (gmt 0)

Google won't disallow all trademark ads. It would hurt their bottom line too much. They will simply place a system like they did for online pharmacies. Google will have a tough time explaining why people can't PPC the term Google but can the term Geico.


 2:39 am on Sep 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

Geico should NOT be suing Google. It's as stupid as Google suing Geico for making money off of being naturally listed at Google!

Google has every right to sell ad space to anyone it chooses and I think that out of all of the search engines, Google's definitely the least commercialized.

Other search engines tend to put themselves first, take MSN for example: type in geico and you will see a link to:
Get Free Online Quotes - moneycentral.msn.com
Now that's Greedy! But still, it is MSN's site.

at Yahoo you have to scroll down half the page until you get to geico.com listing.
Google on the other hand makes the geico listing easier to find. They have a cleaner site.

Geico may own the Name but Google owns the site and the page that displays the search results.

How would you like it if someone sued you for the ads you displayed on YOUR Site?! This is Google's site!
Google has always displayed Geico for free in the natural results and in the number 1 position. Geico claims it lost sales?
Geico Gained millions of sales through Google. And what did they pay Google? Not a thin Dime!

If Geico wins this suit I'll eat my Hat!
(and I'll have to Quit my Dayjob!)


 2:44 am on Sep 28, 2004 (gmt 0)

So it makes more sense for companies to police their own marks and go after individual advertisers that have no right to the mark.

No, that doesn't make sense for Google: simply because companies will keep taking them to court for facilitating trademark abuses.

As for advertisers not being able to bid on trademarked terms - I'm sure people would still be able to - they would just have to get an 'ok' from the owner of the trademark (just like in the real world).

This 32 message thread spans 2 pages: 32 ( [1] 2 > >
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