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Google Sued by American Airlines Over Keyword Triggered Ads
engine

WebmasterWorld Administrator engine us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month Best Post Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 6:13 pm on Aug 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

American Airlines Inc. yesterday filed a lawsuit against Google Inc., claiming the search company is infringing on the airline's trademarks by using them as keyword triggers for paid advertisements by other companies.

By bringing the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Fort Worth Division, American wants to stop competitors from using those trademarks to trigger their own advertising on Google.

"Without authorization or approval from American Airlines, Google has sold to third parties the 'right' to use the trademarks and service marks of American Airlines or words, phrases, or terms confusingly similar to those marks as 'keyword' triggers that cause paid advertisements, which Google calls 'Sponsored Links' to appear alongside the 'natural results," the lawsuit said.

Google Sued by American Airlines Over Keyword Triggered Ads [computerworld.com]

 

stroudtx

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 3:35 am on Aug 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is a stupid lawsuit, and I predict that AA will lose big time on it.

I don't agree and this is nothing like your example.

It's like Delta bidding on American with an ad that says, Fly Delta - Lower Round Trip Airfare etc.

It's not Delta bidding on Boeing which both American and Delta fly.

I have no problem with bidding on trademarked terms as long as both parties agree. It's a problem usually when it's a direct competitor and not a vendor you both carry.

Wlauzon

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 8:31 am on Aug 20, 2007 (gmt 0)

I don't agree and this is nothing like your example.

It's like Delta bidding on American with an ad that says, Fly Delta - Lower Round Trip Airfare etc....

You obviously did not read what the lawsuit was about, or the previous messages.

It is NOT about being able to say 'fly Delta' - it is about the KEYWORD Delta (or any of 165,000 other trademarked terms) being able to be bid on.

This is just stupid. If upheld it will pretty much totally destroy PPC, as almost any word commonly used in most languages is part of some trademark somewhere.

The effect of what you want to do is that since Delta is a keyword that cannot be bid on, I can no longer make up ads for my fraternity - 'Delta Sigma Phi'. And nobody else can use the keywords 'wind' or 'sun' because that is part of our trademarked name. And suppose that AA wins this - does that mean that nobody can also use the keyword phrase 'airlines american'?

I think you should read up on 'the law of unintended consequences' before you start thinking this is a good idea.

[edited by: Wlauzon at 8:36 am (utc) on Aug. 20, 2007]

tim222

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 1:57 am on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

American Airlines' lawsuit seems to be a bit misleading. The lawsuit quotes a phrase from Google's website that states, "Please note that we will not disable keywords in response to a trademark complaint."

However AA did not reveal that the sentence immediately prior to that states: "If the advertiser is using the trademark in ad text, we will require the advertiser to remove the trademark and prevent them from using it in ad text in the future."

(previous two paragraphs refers to):
[google.com...]

Also, American Airlines said that Google "now allows advertisers to purchase specific trademarks..." To back this up, AA quoted a statement from 2004: "Under our new policy, we no longer disable ads due to selection by our advertisers of trademarks as keyword triggers for the ads"

However, tm_complaint_adwords.html was apparently written in October of 2006. So American Airlines is claiming that the 3-year-old shareholders statement is Google's current policy, while selectively pulling statements out of context from their currently posted policy.

That seems pretty deceptive on the part of American Airlines.

Assuming that tm_complaint_adwords.html reflects the current policy, I think Google will be protected by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. Google has provided a mechanism for AA to prevent their trademarks from being abused:
[adwords.google.com...]

On that note, I didn't see where AA even availed themselves of that mechanism. Did AA file a trademark complaint with Google? I didn't see that in the legal filing, although I might have missed it. It's 55 pages long and I didn't read every single line:
[claranet.scu.edu...]

jd01

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 10:09 pm on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I would guess it's more about trademark protection than about winning or losing.

American Airlines *has* to file a lawsuit to protect their trademark if it appears others are infringing, even if they know they will lose going in.

If they do not 'go the extra mile' they will lose their trademark as it becomes 'common'. It's the same reason Xerox and other 'house hold names' file suits for misuse of their marks. They have to.

Check out some trademark law before thinking American Airlines is silly.

Justin

artek

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 10:28 pm on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am wondering what American Airlines is going to do when they see ad:
"AirTran Airways an American airline" or "AirTran Airways American airlines".
The trademark office should not issue protection for American Airlines to begin with.

They would not grant "spring water" trademark to water bottling company or "golf balls" to golf balls maker due to fact of the generic and common use of these particular phrases. However, sometimes they drop the ball.

I can understand protection of "cheaptickets.com" but protection for generic, common use separated two word phrase "cheap tickets" is questionable.

The hilarious thing is that I found only one trademark for "American Airlines" at Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS) and it is dead at this moment (cancelled in 2006). It could be glitch but it is funny anyhow.

tim222

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 10:34 pm on Aug 21, 2007 (gmt 0)

The hilarious thing is that I found only one trademark for "American Airlines" at Trademark Electronic Search System...

According to their lawsuit, they have trademarked:
American Airlines (1949)
American Eagle (1986)
AA (1949)
A A (as a logo) (1995)
AA.COM (2000)
American Airlines Center (2001)
AAdvantage (1998)
American Connection (1998)
AmericanAirlines (1994)

phranque

WebmasterWorld Administrator phranque us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 12:34 am on Aug 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

They would not grant "spring water" trademark to water bottling company or "golf balls" to golf balls maker due to fact of the generic and common use of these particular phrases. However, sometimes they drop the ball.

they did somehow see fit to grant trademarks for a "Windows"-based operating system as well as a "Word" processor that is part of a suite of "Office" software...

jd01

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 1:13 am on Aug 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

They would not grant "spring water" trademark to water bottling company or "golf balls" to golf balls maker due to fact of the generic and common use of these particular phrases. However, sometimes they drop the ball.

Not today, but to an innovator, yes they would, and with good reason.
See the above examples from phranque for some ideas of what is trademarkable...

You are comparing apples to oranges, which you could not trademark (apples / oranges) in the fruit industry, but could in computers.

A business in the banking and loan industry could use 'Windows' without infringement of Microsoft's TM, because it is in an unrelated business, and 'Windows' (Banking and Loan) could not be confused with 'Windows' (Computer Operating System). The two are non-competitive.

It is up to the trademark holder to make a concerted effort to protect the mark if there is an infringement, so the mark does not become common usage. If they do not, they will lose the rights to the mark.

To use the Xerox example again, it's why they *must* ask those who say, 'Will you Xerox me one of those', to restate the sentence with the generic word 'copy'. If they do not they will lose the rights to the mark.

Justin

artek

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 11:36 pm on Aug 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

...you could not trademark (apples / oranges) in the fruit industry, but could in computers.

A business in the banking and loan industry could use 'Windows' without infringement of Microsoft's TM, because it is in an unrelated business, and 'Windows' (Banking and Loan) could not be confused with 'Windows' (Computer Operating System). The two are non-competitive.

This is exactly my point "American Airlines" is generic, descriptive, common use phrase relating to all airlines based in United States of America and as such, it should not qualify for trademark protection in category of goods and services which includes air transportation, airlines and so on. We also know that AA did not create or discover or was first airline in America.

Every airline based in USA should be able to advertise itself as an "American airlines" if they like to do so, especially in the overseas advertising. The airline link lists called "German airlines", "Mexican airlines", "British airlines", or "American airlines" are answer to commonly used query keywords.

Many non-USA searchers looking for "American airlines" never heard about AA but want to see the list of all America based airlines.

On the other hand, I think G is working hard to resolve trademarks-keywords-ads mess as they did in search results. These days when you type-in exact wording of the trademark most likely you find it in the top position of first page results regardless of page rank algo.

jd01

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 12:13 am on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Every airline based in USA should be able to advertise itself as an "American airlines" if they like to do so, especially in the overseas advertising. The airline link lists called "German airlines", "Mexican airlines", "British airlines", or "American airlines" are answer to commonly used query keywords.

Today... 50+ years ago was a different story.

I can understand your point, but at the time, people would have been much more likely to advertise overseas, or here in the sates with something to the effect of 'Delta, an American airline'. Should the trademark still be protected with the change in global advertising, wording, and the addition of search engines?

My guess is the trademark will be upheld as long as it was properly granted and American Airlines exhibits a concerted, ongoing effort to protect it.

Again, today you are correct, but there are some fairly big changes which have taken place in the last 50 years. Using the same logic, American National Bank could be on shaky ground as a search engine user might search for American, National Bank.

It might be a loose example, but I'm sure we could find others, where at the time the mark was granted it was granted with good cause, but would not be granted today.

Maybe we'll see some trademarks lost by major entities in the near future due to the advent of search and changes in commonly used language / words?

Interesting either way.

Justin

Just my .02c

<added>
Not sure if you're an attorney, but I'm not...
I'm sure there are some real ones who will be (are) having a good, meaningful debate over this or similar mark issues.
</added>

jd01

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 7:25 pm on Aug 24, 2007 (gmt 0)

Just thinking a little...

Every airline based in USA should be able to advertise itself as an "American airlines" if they like to do so, especially in the overseas.

I'm fairly sure they can in some form overseas, because unless through treaties, etc. foreign laws uphold US marks without review, a US based company would have to apply for and be granted a trademark from the country it is trying to restrict usage in.

My guess is even though another airline might not be able to advertise as an 'American airline' in the US (why would they need to?) they probably can outside the US.

Justin

Edited: Semantics.

justageek

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3424965 posted 4:02 pm on Aug 30, 2007 (gmt 0)

On the other hand, I think G is working hard to resolve trademarks-keywords-ads mess as they did in search results.

I'm not sure that is accurate since they don't seem to care about trademark violations on ads they run themselves.

The phrase "internet explorer" is trademarked yet doing a search in Google brings up Google in the number 1 ad spot with the title having "internet explorer" in it. IE7 does the same thing.

Google is making far more money than any lawsuit could burn through so why do the right thing and be proactive to help protect the use of someone elses trademark?

JAG

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