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Google ruled against in AdWords trade mark case

     
4:08 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A US district court has ruled against Google in a trade mark action over the sale of the terms “Geico” and “Geico Direct” in AdWords, its keyword advertising service. The judge found that there was infringement where the terms were used in the text of sponsored ads.

[theregister.co.uk...]

4:33 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Do no evil (unless you can make a buck). And try not to get caught at it.

Words to live by...

5:21 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The judge found that there was infringement where the terms were used in the text of sponsored ads.

This seems to be the crux of the lawsuit. The question is, is advertising on a keyword (without using it in the ad), going to be allowed without explicit permission in the future.

7:05 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It is both not allowed in Europe looking at most recent cases.
7:35 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This ruling is still in line with the current trademark policy of Adwords : A Trademark keyword could trigger a competitor's ad but the trademark term itself cannot appear in the Ad. So I don't foresee any major change due to this ruling.
8:19 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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One of the things that's significant is that an intermediary third part was held responsible rather than the party placing the ad. This could set a precedent that could potentially spill over into other areas with regard to third party responsibility.
8:31 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>> One of the things that's significant is that an intermediary third part was held responsible rather than the party placing the ad

aren't the ads checked manually by Google? if so, Google is responsible directly. The other party too, but Google approved it, and Geico can stop all by suing one party (Google, Yahoo etc).

If Brett approves all of our comments, he is responsible, otherwise, he just has to remove them when asked by the person who was damaged by the post.

9:21 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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One key thing is:

the court has stayed the trial for 30 days to give the parties an opportunity to settle. If the parties do not settle, the trial will continue on the question of damages and on the issue of who is liable: Google or Google's advertisers.
9:44 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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You do know who owns GEICO? And you do know in what relationship he holds to the Big MS?
11:21 pm on Aug 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't think extra business relationships between the owner of the plaintiff and MS came into play ...

This is a basic trademark issue. The current result is "Can bid on trademarked terms but can't use them in your ad copy". Not too bad.

I wonder what the impact will be on all of those sites that sell toys and stuff, whose ads read something like "Buy Barbie Dolls" and "Get your John Deere tractor here".

The basics of trademark retention involve aggressively protecting the trademark from infringement or losing the trademark altogether.

Can one company let advertisers use their trademarks in the ad text without diluting their claim to their trademark while others refuse to allow it? Where's the line? Is there any line?

1:09 am on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So I type in Geico into google and not only does Geico get top result but they have a special listing with a couple extra links. Do they pay for those extra links? I also see sponsored links, aren't those what their fighting?

Whoever is upset with whoever, why doesn't a) google take geico off it's search or b) geico robot.txt out google? They could each be a thorn in each others sides if they really wanted.

For that matter, why doesn't MSN just remove Google from it's listings and vice versa. People being forced to use multiple search engines to find what their looking for sure would benefit webmasters.

2:49 am on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The example of this board is a good one. We can talk about GEICO all we want here and the insurance firm can't say a word to Brett. It's fair use. You can't control the language.

But, if you start trading on someone else's name, especially a brand name, to compete against them, then that use is not fair.

So, if a newspaper starts a Google-type program (as Quigo has offered) and runs links to their competitors because they have sold the word GEICO when it appears in an article, is that fair use? Probably not, but it's gray.

8:19 am on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What are those extra links that twist pointed out?

Is it something that Geico have negotiated with Google? Or is it something that can be set up by anyone?

8:23 am on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I've typed in a few other big brand trademarks - e.g. microsoft, linux, glaxo, hsbc, mercedes and they all have the extra results as well. Anyone know anything about this?
3:17 pm on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So if I'm searching for "A", and some of the most prominent ads coming back are for "A's competitor B", I'd certainly be annoyed.

If it weren't for the fact that google's search is free -- I'd think a lot of consumers have grounds for a complaint of fraud. I type in "A" because I want relevant pages about "A", not about the "non-A world".

10:10 pm on Aug 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Remember this thread:

[webmasterworld.com...]

I still think and apparently so do the courts that trademarks belong to the trademark owners and they don't exist so that third parties can profit by the use of them. Actually, this is a long time in coming IMHO.

6:03 am on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Where's the line? Is there any line?

That's what this ruling attempts to draw.

6:12 pm on Aug 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

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But Brinkema also ruled that Google can use trademarks as keywords to trigger the appearance of ads.

From: [dmnews.com...]

This clears up quite a bit if the entire ruling stands, and draws some good lines for what is/isn't acceptable.

6:22 pm on Aug 18, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The Google Blog has an entry regarding this topic.

The board wont allow a direct link so you can find the blog through this link:

[google.com...]

8:05 pm on Aug 19, 2005 (gmt 0)

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For another perspective:

Geico Spin Machine Undermines Google Victory

"The wave of articles seems to have been triggered by a Geico press release issued last week, which declared victory in the case.

In fact, however, for all practical purposes, Google won the trademark infringement lawsuit ..."


[publications.mediapost.com...]