A Lawsuit Over Trademarks In AdWords That Makes Sense

from the one-of-the-few dept

I tend to believe most of the lawsuits companies raise over the use of their trademarks as keywords or in ads on Google are bogus. They tend to stem from companies believing they own all rights to the trademark, rather than recognizing that a trademark is designed more to prevent customer confusion. Yet, a new case that is getting attention seems a bit different, and from the facts presented (admittedly from one side only), raises a lot of concerns. Jeremy Shoemaker, a somewhat well-known internet marketer (under the name Shoemoney), had gone through Google's regular procedure to register his trademarks to prevent other companies from showing those trademarks in an ad. Yet, he discovered recently that at least one advertiser was able to keep showing ads with "Shoemoney" in the ad -- and even using it as the sole "title" of the ad, which could certainly confuse people into believing the ad would lead to Shoemaker's own site.

The site that it did lead to was registered under a masked name, so he ended up getting a subpoena and uncovering the name of the individual who owned the site. And here's where it gets odd: there's a lot of evidence out there that the guy in question works for Google having something to do with AdWords. So, Shoemaker has sued the employee (not Google itself, though). There are a lot of questions raised about this, including why it appears a Google employee may have been able to bypass Google's own blocks on using trademarked terms to run these ads. There's also an accusation, though again from just one side, that the same guy appeared to be using the identical keywords that Shoemaker uses -- suggesting that he had access to Shoemaker's account.

The whole thing seems pretty questionable -- and Google's response so far (a big "no comment") isn't particularly reassuring.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Weird Harold, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:38pm

    If nothing else, this would be an indication that Google's own systems have back doors and other ways that the system can be manipulated. I would wonder what trademarked names company with a fair number of cubic dollars could rent from adwords.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    true, but this is also true of any company, it is very easy to fly under the radar and abuse the system, especially if you work with it every day.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:52pm

    Re:

    Of course it is not a rouge employee, as that would mess up any opportunity to fling crap at the goog, other than perhaps their HR screening process.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    identicon
    Avatar28, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 4:56pm

    response doesn't surprise me

    I wouldn't expect any sort of response just yet. Now that it's come to light I'm sure Google will want to perform some sort of internal investigation before commenting, especially since there appears to be legal actions involved, even if they aren't (currently) a party to it.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:28pm

    I wouldn't expect a response since it's google. They don't respond to customers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:42pm

    Re:

    Customer? Do you pay google? If so, okay. If not then 'user' may be a more appropriate term.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    AnonCow, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:48pm

    I'll bet there are quite a few people at Google that run their own little Adwords scams based on insider knowledge and back door access.

    GOOG is in the dumper and an Ivy League education comes with a hefty amount of student debt...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    ehrichweiss, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    Re: Re:

    it isn't not a *rogue* employee either...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 5:51pm

    Administrators have administrative access - the sky is falling

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 7:13pm

    Re:

    I tend to agree here. Google is very secretive about they adwords and the like, and a very substantial amount of money has been withheld from web site owners with unverifiable and unbelievable excuses given as reasons.

    It wouldn't surprise me at all to find that one or more bad apples in the Google tree have been doing exactly as accused here and even pocketing payments that should have went to site operators.

    If this turns out to be true I wouldn't be surprised to see a lot of payments reinstated too... or a class-action lawsuit.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Joel, Apr 9th, 2009 @ 7:41pm

    Google bounced Adsense check

    I follow him on Twitter and earlier today he posted this:

    So this is interesting...... Google refused to pay our adsense check (it bounced) for this month

    AT the time I didn't know he was suing an employee but this seems a little off coming from a company of Google's size.

    Maybe there's more to this story?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    ASH, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 12:39am

    "They tend to stem from companies believing they own all rights to the trademark, rather than recognizing that a trademark is designed more to prevent customer confusion."

    Actually, that's not correct. The TEST for whether something is a trademark violation is "consumer confusion". (Actually, "likelihood of consumer confusion.") But the PURPOSE of trademarks is to protect the investment of time, energy and money that companies put in to developing their trademarks. The "consumer confusion" thing is primarily to determine if someone has sufficiently copied your trademark enough that they're stealing the effort you spent developing it with the public.

    There are in fact many laws designed to protect the consumers; but they're laws governing fraud, false advertising, etc. etc., and they're not trademark claims.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    icon
    kirillian (profile), Apr 10th, 2009 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: Re:

    The technical term is 'rouge' employee...it's the kind of employee that spends all day in the bathroom applying rouge to their face...then spends the five minutes they ARE at their desk creating havoc through back doors...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    icon
    Danny (profile), Apr 10th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Re: response doesn't surprise me

    I agree with Avatar28. No comment is the correct initial response from Google as they investigate this.

    It seems unlikely to me that this would be a systematic scheme endorsed internally by Google. There is too much risk for too little return in gaming the system this way. It seems much more likely this is the work of a rogue employee.

    If that be the case, while Google may not opt to say very much about it, I am sure they will take care of it internally. And will likely establish some guards to keep it from happening again.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Gene Cavanaugh, Apr 10th, 2009 @ 6:02pm

    Shoemoney

    Excellent article, until you got to the last line; "
    The whole thing seems pretty questionable -- and Google's response so far (a big "no comment") isn't particularly reassuring."
    He is not suing Google, and thereby implies Google had nothing to do with it, and knew nothing about it. If they make a comment, that presumption is likely to "go away".
    Additionally, if they really were "blindsided", they would be stupid to make a comment until they had thoroughly investigated the whole thing, and know independently what happened.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    PassioneL.Com, Jan 10th, 2010 @ 12:12am

    why ain't i surprise

    'rouge' employee...it's the kind of employee that are parasite to the business , anyway glad you put this up herer on this site - i'm gonna subsscribe to your blog now

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This