Welcome to WebmasterWorld Guest from

Forum Moderators: buckworks & eWhisper & skibum

Message Too Old, No Replies

Google Wins Geico Lawsuit



5:57 pm on Dec 15, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP) - Google Inc. won a major legal victory Wednesday when a federal judge said the search engine could continue to sell ads triggered by searches using trademarked company names.

Brinkema said the case would continue to move forward on one remaining issue, whether ads that pop up and actually use Geico in their text violate trademark law. Google contends that its policies expressly prohibit advertisers from using trademark names in the text of their ads. The search engine says it does its best to prevent ads that violate the policy from sneaking in, and that the advertisers would be liable for any trademark violation, not Google.

Complete article:


11:32 pm on Dec 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

OK... so if someone searches for 'Geico', should Google return-

1. Only one result: Geico.


2. Several full pages of results, as Google does and always has done for all other searches

You must answer this question, because both alternatives cannot exist simultaneously; they are mutually contradictory.

If you chose #2 (which is Google functioning normally, as Google normally functions, and always has) then what exactly should be on all those pages of results Google returns in a search for 'Geico'?

Please answer this question accurately; if you cannot, please stop ranting.


11:43 pm on Dec 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

One more thing: a far as I'm aware, it's never been illegal to say in an ad, for example:

'Compare and Save! Brand A's nationally advertised price is 100 sheets for $10. B brand gives you twice as much - 200 sheets for only $10.00."

Someone please correct me if I'm wrong here.


11:45 pm on Dec 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

lol, look at the top ad for 'Geico' right now. Mr. Pell has some money to burn.


11:51 pm on Dec 16, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

luckychucky, the second half of your second option sets up the whole question to be a false choice, so the question is not worthy of any intelligent response.

When you are ready to offer a legitimate question without propaganda, I MIGHT consider answering it. But given the insulting nature of your question, maybe not. We'll see.


12:13 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

multiman, it's a simple question, which must be answered if any of your complaint is to be valid, at all, even a shred of it:

a single result in a search for Geico.

a normal multitude of results.

Be insulted or not, I really don't care. You don't seem able to answer this basic question. In the absense of this answer, everything you say can not be valid. So go ahead and validate yourself for all of us, please.
In other words: you're magically in charge of Google now. What, very exactly, do you demand that Google do? Be specific and answer the question. We've already heard the repetitive rant about 'RELEVANCE', ok?

Go. You have the platform. Solve it for all of us, just as you want it done, which is:


We're all ears.


12:23 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Already answered.

Msg #57

I (and most SE users) want a SE that offers what G$ no longer does but used to do: give honest, relevant on-topic SERPs and ads.

It is very simple. Any high SERP listing and any ad should be a website of its own real-domain and which provides the user with something about the keyword, showing that the landing page is indeed committed to that keyword. Whether it is a product, or a pro or con article, or an actual comparison to others, or a report or opinion, the landing page simply MUST be about the searched-for keyword.

It's called RELEVANCE.

That should not be too much to expect from a SE, considering that's what they are supposed to be for and why users use them.


1:18 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ads triggered by competitors' trademarks, clearly offering competing brands, get high CTRs. Proof of their high relevance.


1:39 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

That's the biggest lie G$ creates which proves my point. It absolutely is NOT proof of relevance. It is proof of DECEPTION!


1:47 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I can't believe Geico even thought they had a case. Google can display whatever they want on their website.

Was Geico (and those on the board who support their case) suggesting that if I create a web page with a form on it, and a visitor comes to my site and types the word "Geico" in that box it should be illegal for me to display any link other than www.geico.com?

To further illustrate how absurd this whole case is, lets look at in a 'real world' example.

Let's say I own a car dealership that sells only Ford. If a customer comes in and askes me a question about a Chevy, would I be infringing on their trademark by suggesting they buy a Ford instead?

In addition, commentary and criticism are legal uses of a copyrighted word. So even if Geico did win this case people should still be allowed to build sites about the horrible service they received from Geico and run adwords about it.

The purpose of a trademark is to prevent another company from using your company's name which would that would confuse consumers or dilute your brand. Neither one is happening here. The user types in "Geico" and google brings up an ad for a competing insurance company. The customer is not 'confused' nor is there any brand dilution. Unless the ad said "Click Here For Geico Insurance" and it took you to a page offering a competing companies insurance there is not even a trace of infringment here. And if that was the case, the company running the ad is infringing on the trademark - not Google.

I actually have Geico for my car insurance....but am now considering switching to another company.


3:17 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

A searcher is using a SEARCH ENGINE. They are SEARCHING for a keyword. Their very action of searching for keyword shows they are hoping to find RELEVANT results which should only be landing-pages of real-domain sites that provide something to do with that keyword.

That comes down to what you think is relevant. If you think the only relevant site for the keyword "Geico" is geico.com then you are right. But then that defeats the whole purpose of the ads. If the user wanted to go to Geico's website what are they doing at a Search Engine?

Yes, it is legal to compare differences even with someone's trademark (in an actual genuine comparison and ON THEIR OWN SITE).

On who's on site? I can legally make a site that compares Geico and another insurance provider. I don't have to have anything to do with either company.

All the trademark infringers do is exploit someone else's trademark to trigger clicks and generate revenue for themselves. That is false advertising and it is deception for G$ to present that as supposedly RELEVANT results when it is 100% IRRELEVANT.

False advertising is when you make a claim that is not true. What is false here? The user searched for a company name. Ads were displayed for other companies in the same field. Unless the actual ads mislead the user into thinking they are visiting Geico's website there is no false advertising.

A site about comparing auto insurance is extremely relevant to the keyword Geico. Geico sells insurance, and it's a good bet that this user is looking for something to do with insurance.


3:39 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

A site about comparing auto insurance is extremely relevant to the keyword Geico.

Only if the content serves infomation about Geico.

If a searcher wants insurance, they search for insurance. If they want Geico, they should search for Geico.

If you want to make a site with content that actually and genuinely compares Geico with others, and thereby SERVES the user actual information about Geico, then that would be RELEVANT for "Geico" searches.

But an ad that does nothing more than display in searches for Geico, but the advertised landing page serves NOTHING about Geico, then it is IRRELEVANT and wholly infringing Geico's trademark.


7:24 am on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Eh, hello people...

We're not talking about search results, you know - we're talking about Google's selected paid advertisements that appear with them, generating profit for Google.

Please don't propogate the fantasy that it's the same algorithm used for both sets of results - I'm relatively certain that "Cost Per Click" hasn't been figured in to the search results you see on 85% of the page - at least in the past.

luckychucky - I'll answer your question. If I want to search for "Geico", I should receive a multitude of search results that Google's always been great at providing - including SEC filings, archived messages from mailing lists, and close variations of that term in other languages, with absolutely no relevance. Here's a question for you: who's buying AdWords slots for those?

However, if I want to -shop- for Geico, I don't want to see an ad for SafeCo or Pemco. Show them if I search for "insurance companies", if you like. But don't try and convince people that it's a -good- thing to have other companies buy their way to the top of my search that specifically excludes them, ok?

Search Google like you're not an advertiser - compare the ads you get to the search results you get - you might just learn something.


4:17 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

Well, big fat lazy insurance companies want a piece of Google pie, right? A Billion dollars in revenue is something their fat arses are finally interested in.

I spoke to a State Farm agent (another big old insurance company for those not from US), he has an office, employes etc. and works on commissions. So he was really upset about "home" being over-conservative on allowing advertising, what you can and cannot do in press and on the web. And now old boys with big bucks finally start getting it: Google and other folks are eating their lunch.

One can't expect to sustain a business by just simply providing legal restrictions and barriers to entry anymore. Web is entirely different from newspapers and TV, any Joe Lucky with $100 can open a website and advertise ANY insurance company.

My point is that in internet age THE BRAND IS DEAD.
Coke, Nike, M$ and others will still benefit, because they have Millions to burn, that otherwise will be paid to US Government in taxes. But the ROI will get smaller and smaller.

It is because I don't give a darn thing about their PR messages (public relations). If they can't provide a cheaper, better service - adios amigos, I am out to the next competitor.

And in fact, when I search for "Geico", chances are I just don't know other companies, and want to find myself a Geico replacement. So your "IRRELEVANT" claim is completely irrelevant.


4:42 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Only the shady with shady intentions disrespect trademarks. For the little guy who spent a lifetime building up a trademark value, it is in the extreme of evil to have shady people try to waste the little guy's life for their own shady intended values. Why can't the shady ones build up their own trademarks on their own? Because they are purposely shady and only know how to make money by way of thievery and shady ways! Those shady intentions and actions are not free-enterprise, they are deception, theft, and evil.

For G$ to embrace such shady ideas and allow that is very much, once again, "G does do evil."


5:10 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

aleksl -

You'd better let the entire Fortune 500 list know of your recent discovery, so they can strip the URLs off of their multi-million dollar TV ad campaigns.


5:14 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the update, multiman.
I always thought 'the extreme of evil' referred to stuff like rape or genocide.
Good to know.


6:44 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think it would be interesting to find out if Geico bids on their competitor's names as keywords, or if any other mega-corporations bid on competitor's names for that matter.

As far as companies like Geico are concerned, what they are after is a world with little or no competition, which is what all the mega-corporations strive for.

There isn't anybody forcing them to use AdWords, so if they are that unhappy with the results, maybe they should refrain from using it instead of trying to force Google into making it work for them in the courts.


6:47 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Pertinent related thread, if you're interested:



7:08 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

If their competitors were using Geico's trademarked name in their ads, that would be different. Then there really would be the possibility that a consumer could get confused and click on one of their ads when they actually meant to go to the Geico site.

In that case, Geico would need to pursue the company that was abusing their trademarked name. I think it is against the AdWords terms of service to use other companies trademarks in the title and text of AdWords listings.

Geico probably doesn't like the reduced ROI resulting from their name becoming a popular keyword.


7:14 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

cyhcto, you write:

(...) if I want to -shop- for Geico, I don't want to see an ad for SafeCo or Pemco.

It must be noted that here you speak only for yourself and any like-minded individuals (if any exist). Don't even begin to presume to speak for all of us, because personally I'm a different kind of consumer, and would gladly welcome any and all such information. My brand loyalty wasn't coded into me at birth, thank heaven.

And again, if you want Geico, Geico, and only Geico, perhaps you should try the white pages, not Google.

But don't try and convince people that it's a -good- thing to have other companies buy their way to the top of my search that specifically excludes them, ok?

I'm not terribly familiar with search modifiers, but I'm wondering how you'd do that, ie: a search for "Geico" in quotemarks, or what? The question is, where do you get this search to which you refer, that specifically excludes any and all possible related results?

We're not talking about search results, you know - we're talking about Google's selected paid advertisements that appear with them, generating profit for Google.

How right you are. Google is not a public utility. It provides a service on its own pages, which allows people to harvest results of crunching freely broadcast content from all over the Internet. It can choose to place ads for anything it wishes when it displays those results--as long as the ads themselves conform to law...
...and if the ads themselves do not specifically contain the 'Geico' trademark, defame its image or cause confusion as to its brand identity by specifically claiming to be Geico, licensed by Geico or otherwise sanctioned or affiliated with Geico, they are perfectly legal, and this has a very long precedent in law. Citations of competing brands in a comparison-shopping setting, or offering/reviewing alternatives to a known brand, is cut-and-dried legal, and has always been so.


7:38 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

luckychucky's twisted view is only a feeble attempt to self-justify outlandishly shady behavior.


msg #:9
luckychucky openly admits:

They're sending me cease-and-desist nastygrams about my use of their brand as an AdWords keyword, and I'm telling them (in a sufficiently businesslike fashion) to go pleasure themselves and rotate.

That's not entrepreneurialism, it's shady thievery.

But then again, anyone who disregards trademark ownership is predictably going to be similarly inclined to be conducting shady activities anyway.


7:41 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Ok, you've got me there. Do you have a specific statistic on how many people comparison shop for insurance by using the term "Geico" rather than the term "comparison shop for insurance"? I know there must be someone out there like me that would use "Geico" to search for the Geico company, and "comparison shop for insurance" to... well, if you don't get it by now, I guess continuing this explanation would be pointless.

Here's a brief lesson on search modifiers:

When searching the Internet, use all of the search terms that reflect what you want to find. Generally search engines are designed to exclude results that don't match what the user is searching for. Research has shown this to be the best method of finding information. Let me provide an example:

Searching just for


is just like searching for

+Geico -Pemco -SafeCo -"State Farm" -"Mutual Of Omaha" -"mutual funds" -"First National Bank" -"river banks" -"River Phoenix" -viagra -gesundheit

Well, you probably get the point.

Your last paragraph was the only one that is, in fact, on target. Google can sell whatever they want, regardless of the relevance to a user's search. So is that your argument, or that Google achieved search dominance by using a search algorithm that associates "Geico" with "insurance comparison shopping" or the names of other insurance providers.

I find that contention ignorant at best, intellectually dishonest at worst. If you want to argue Google's right to sell high value advertising under irrelevant keywords because it's their page real estate, fine. But again, please don't try to propogate a fantasy - that AdWords results are any longer pertinent to a user's actual search.


7:47 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Excuse me, multiman?

Stick to the facts, because you have none.

An attorney for someone like Geico, having not done his homework, tried to intimidate me into removing a legitimate and perfectly legal AdWords campaign, and assumed that mere pompous letterhead with certified delivery would trump actual fact and law, and leave me whimpering in fear. I pointed out that he has no case. He's already mumbled off into the woodwork--which is an option you might want to consider, if you can take your foot out of your mouth long enough to do so.


7:51 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Shady individuals do not get my extended conversation, as I have learned that such ones only deliberately obfuscate and seek to waste my time.


8:00 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

With all due respect, I beg to differ. Again:
I can think of nothing more relevant to a consumer's search for a brand, than that brand's competitors.


8:06 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

luckychucky openly admits:

To...Nothing I would be ashamed of admitting, nothing sleazy, and nothing previously secret.

Business is war. If you want to apply the ethics of romance or family to business, feel free to do so- for you and your company only, please.

If you want to create a world of business in which competitors do not snap at the heels of other competitors, try Disneyland. Or a Vicodin haze...and Happy Trails to you.


8:43 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


Isn't it ironic how shady that shady individuals don't even realize they are? lol

Real competitors with something genuinely good enough to compete never need shady tactics -- they are good all by their own self. It is precisely because shady ones are NOT good enough by themselves that they use and self-justify their shadiness. And they don't even realize how blind they are to the obvious shadiness of their tactics!

Funny, but sad (for them) too.


9:12 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member


We'll have to agree to disagree then, I suppose. Now, if we were discussing Froogle as opposed to Google proper, I'd be happy to concede your point. In fact, that's the crux of my argument - if Google were a shopping engine, the chance to shop a competitor's website would be completely relevant. Not the -most- relevant as you claim - would you prefer that a search for your nickname here on WebmasterWorld provide your comments, or MultiMan's comments about you?

And remember, I'm not necessarily opposed to competitor results being returned at all (although the implications for "broad match" keywords are just mind boggling if Geico = insurance, does McDonalds = food?) - I'm opposed to giving companies the right to buy their way to the top of a search for another company's name and calling that the most "relevant" result.


9:19 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

I was about to reply to this "shady" label, but things happen...

Anyway, who is here to call everyone else's business practices but someone on the side of insurance companies. Insurance is third (after porn and gambling) shadiest business IMHO. One only takes to find history of some insurance companies to know that it was mostly a way of legalizing dirty money. And lets bring in here practices of some insurance companies - starting with standard practice of denying first claim to see if a person folds or gives up - and that protected by panels of lawyers. Talking about shady practices! I would keep similar patriotic rethoric for dumb folks and courtrooms.

to cyhcto:
I opened a new thread on branding


9:38 pm on Dec 17, 2004 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Do you have a specific statistic on how many people comparison shop for insurance by using the term "Geico" rather than the term "comparison shop for insurance"?

I don't believe such data exist. However, there are surely tens or hundreds of thousands Adwords ads keyword targeted to competing brand names. Advertisers are doing this because it works.

The typical scenario in which it works begins with a search on a brand name the searcher has heard of, as part of the searcher's purchase research. The keyword targeted ads bring up competing offers. Since the searcher is in the research phase, they investigate these competing offers. Ultimately, they select among the competing offers, and the rate at which they choose the advertised brand (rather than the searched for brand) must be high enough to compensate for the advertising. Also, in this regard, there must be sufficient searchers who click on these ads to keep them above Adwords' CTR minimums, which is an objective measure of the ads' relevance to the searchers.

This 122 message thread spans 5 pages: 122

Featured Threads

Hot Threads This Week

Hot Threads This Month