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trademark infringement in metatags
doctor gerlis

 2:23 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Two of my competitors are using my trademark in their metatags - who exactly can I contact to complain about this? This is not adwords but natural google search.



 4:07 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

It's not our function here to give legal advice - and legal advice is what you need most. Note that copyright law is not trademark law, so I'd suggest reading the section on chillingeffects.org that pertains specifically to trademarks:


The above page at ChillingEffects says this:

Some courts have held that it is trademark infringement when one company uses anotherís trademark to attract people who search for the competing company. There are meta tag uses that are considered fair use -- for example, when a site uses a descriptive term that is also a trademark.

doctor gerlis

 4:29 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thank you-I have had legal advice that this is an infringement. Although I have good contacts with adwords, I understand that google search is run separately and I would like to know who at google search I should take this issue up with and how best to contact them.


 5:10 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well, Google might do something (see its DMCA procedures page [google.com]), but it can't make any web property do anything. This is best dealt with between you and what you consider to be the offending sites.


 5:38 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Well, Google might do something

If your site in in the U.S., I doubt it very much.

I'd use Google's Adwords policy as a guide: in the U.S., Google permits Adwords advertisers to use trademarked terms as keywords, but not in the ad itself (unless the use in the ad in non-infringing).

In Europe (not sure about other areas) Google does not permit the use of infringing trademarks as keywords.

As to what the law actually is, my understanding is that it's still an unsettled area. Google is doing what they feel they can defend in a given country.

It seems to me that the use of trademarks in metatags MIGHT be considered as equivalent to their use as keywords.

In any case, I doubt that Google would apply one policy to Adwords and another to what publishers do on pages where they display Adsense. It might be considered an admission that they are wrong in the other case.


 5:53 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google's AdWords policy has no bearing on this as the matter really doesn't have anything at all to do with Google. This should be settled between the parties involved and I can't see where Google is an involved party.


 6:41 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can't see where Google is an involved party

Google is an involved party because of the leverage they have as the biggest and dominant search engine. The website owner would apparently like to harness Google's power to penalize the alleged infringer.

doctor gerlis

 7:55 pm on Apr 16, 2007 (gmt 0)

thanks jtara and jimbeetle- I have all the info I need. I will make a complaint to Google's trademark dept-one of my competitors has the phrase www.mywebsite.co.uk/london repeated several times times with different locations so that my trademarked name and web address appears several times in their metatags. If you type in my trademark into the google search they come up on page 1. Surely this is black hat stuff or whatever you call it.

Robert Charlton

 2:32 am on Apr 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

If your trademark appears in Google via your competitors' title element (which is not a meta tag), or in the meta description returned on a Google search, that might be a different situation than if it were used in the meta keywords (which are not visible to users and don't effect Google rankings).

The most detailed article about meta tag lawsuits I've seen is in Danny Sullivan's SearchEngineWatch article of about 3 years ago...

Meta Tag Lawsuits [searchenginewatch.com]


 5:26 am on Apr 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

DMCA is useless in this situation. DMCA is a copyright law and has nothing to do with trademarks.

Send a C&D to the infringer, and if that doesn't work, then sue them. I don't know of any shortcuts for trademarks that compare to the DMCA.

At least in the United States, if you don't defend your trademark, you will lose it. So quit dinking around with Google and go after the infringers.


 7:56 pm on Apr 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

I have a friend in Los Angeles that specializes in Trademark law as it applies to the internet. He won one of the first Federal trademark meta-tag infringement lawsuits back in early 98. When that verdict came through he suddenly became a very busy man.

A Cease and Desist letter from a competent IP attorney is your best bet. If that doesn't convince them to stop you'll have to decide if it's worth suing them in Federal Court to protect your trademark.

doctor gerlis

 8:42 pm on Apr 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Thanks Guys-you are pretty much all correct-Google are not interested in other sites packing their titles etc with my trademark. I am in touch with my lawyer........

doctor gerlis

 3:43 pm on Apr 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I forgot to point out that in using my trademark, one of my competitors uses repeated texts eg www.mywebsite.co.uk London,www.mywebsite.co.uk/westend,www.mywebsite.co.uk/
kensington etc etc-so I have reported this to google as a form of spamming-In your experience will google look at this and deal with it?


 4:11 pm on Apr 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

It sounds to me like this company is also guilty of 'passing off' - whereby they are insinuating that 'they' are 'you' by use of your company name as a search term which specifically attempts to attract customers (ie: potentially your customers) to themselves..... I'm not an expert, although I do have some experience with 'passing off', but I would suggest that this would be a route down which a solicitor would take you.... Good Luck!


 4:21 pm on Apr 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Are you the only site listed in the meta tags? This happened to one of my sites and 14 other competitors. We all had our C&D letters delivered on the same day.

They were removed......


 11:06 pm on Apr 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

We all had our C&D letters delivered on the same day.

That's classic. I wish I worked in an industry that was organized enough to pull something like that off.

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