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A Colorado-based dating Web site has sued Yahoo and three other companies for allegedly paying to have their ads come up when its name is typed into the Google search page.
"Defendants' willful insertion of plaintiff's trademark into paid advertisements constitutes an effort to artificially inflate their profits by knowingly misleading consumers as to the source of the response to their search," the lawsuit said. "It has caused, and continues to cause, actual confusion, is tarnishing the goodwill and reputation of plaintiff, and is causing lost sales."
Trademark infringement suit hits search again [news.com.com]
If it was only used as a keyword then I don't see what the problem is. If used as ad text then a simple complaint to Google would've solved the problem.
In other words, yet another frivolous lawsuit....
It does answer that; sort of:
The lawsuit claims that Yahoo and the others inserted metatags containing the words "lovecity" and variations on that name as keywords into Google's AdWords paid search advertising system
I'd say we can dismiss the "inserted metatags" part as simply cluelessness, and take it that the dispute is over terms being used as keywords.
I was about to blame the reporter for that, but the suit itself uses the same language.
Usually they do just what the plaintiffs in this case are doing: they don't ask for any specific amount. The amount of damages will be "probed at trial," with potential scenarios for what damages might be found to be used as leverage during pre-trial settlement discussions.
Really it's a different issue. The plaintiff is claiming that the defendants are using plaintiff's trademarks as keywords in AdSense campaigns. So when you search for "plaintiff" you see not only his ads, but ads for "defendant."
Among the defendants are corporations like Yahoo. Suing Yahoo for how they advertise on Google isn't going to do anything about scrapers -- which don't typically rely on advertising focused on other peoples' trademarked terms to bring in traffic.
It could directly impact on all search landing pages as yahoo is a search engine, so all similar tactics used by all search engine landing pages could also result in a lawsuit - depending on the outcome of the case.
If that is true, this case is insane. I own I site with an Alexa ranking well above 100,000 (or below, depending on how you look at it). Anyway, the point is, my site receives way more traffic and I know that the number of people searching on our name is tiny. If even half of that traffic were going somewhere else because of competitors bidding on our name (which they do), it wouldn't be worth the paperwork to file a lawsuit. I think there is one of two things happening here, or perhaps a combination of both:
1) Some small company wants to make a name for themselves by suing bigger competitors rather than by providing a better service.
2) Some attorney with an obviously-limited understanding of web marketing has decided to make a name for themselves by going after a large company over a hot topic issue.
I really hope Yahoo! go after them with everything they have. Perhaps they can even force a ruling on this once and for all. Based upon the ads still running on Google, only a complete and utter moron could be "confused" by the advertising methods being employed here. Why must we always let the lowest common denominator dictate the law?
[edited by: eljefe3 at 9:19 am (utc) on June 20, 2006]
However, I would also agree that not all instances of 'trademark abuse' are as harmful, as the above.
If the trademarked word is used as ad text thereby misleading consumers into thinking that the advertiser is the trademarked company then trademark infringement has occured.
You can't just sue someone for using your company name as a keyword. It is perfectly valid to present your company as an alternative to another. Therefore you can use another company's name as a keyword so long as you do not pretend to be that company.
The day may come when there's some legal ground on which to defind that statement. But so far it's just one opinion.
>> You can't just sue someone for using your company name as a keyword.
If that were true, we wouldn't be here discussing a lawsuit that has been filed. American Blinds did. Also Le Meridien Hotels, GIECO, Rescuecom, Louis Vuitton, 800-JR-Cigar, Pets Warehouse, Metaspinner... and of course the plaintiff we're talking about here. Those are off the top of my head; there are probably more. Clearly you can sue someone for this (although these suits aren't for "using your company name as a keyword;" they're against the search engines that allowing that use).
A couple of these suits have been settled, but most are still winding their way through the courts. Whether this kind of use of someone else's trademarks is permissable is simply not clear today.
This is, of course, just my opinion, but how different is using a competitor's company name as a keyword from something like Pepsi comparing itself to Coke in the Pepsi Challenge? You would assume that if Pepsi was running an Adwords campaign that they would bid on keywords like Coca Cola. Using a competitor's company name as a keyword is perfectly valid if you are offering your services as an alternative, perhaps even as a better alternative. I don't see how this is trademark infringement.
The idea that bidding on a keyword is somehow trademark infringement is crazy. If that's trademark infringement then launch suits against:
It's like saying it's illegal to stand outside a bank handing out leaflets for a building society (assuming one has relevant clearance from the local council for leafleting if required).
Riddiculous springs to mind here.