Jenzabar Finds 'Expert Witness' Who Will Claim Google Relies On Metatags, Despite Google Saying It Does Not

from the good-luck-there dept

It's been widely known for years that Google does not use metatag description comments in ranking its search results. Indeed, this simple fact is part of what made Google more reliable than other search engines, since many website owners used fake metatags to "optimize" their results in search engines. While this was quite obvious for many years, Google had never publicly admitted it (it doesn't like to talk about its algorithm) until just a few months ago. Still, the company was just confirming exactly what was widely known for the better part of a decade or so.

And yet, for years, people would bring trademark infringement lawsuits, insisting that metatags represent some sort of trademark violation. In one recent case, that we've discussed, the CEO of software company Jenzabar, Ling Chai, has sued the makers of a documentary about the Tiananmen Square uprising. Chai had been involved in the uprising and doesn't like how the filmmakers portrayed her role. The filmmakers, on their website, mention that Chai works for Jenzabar, and included the word "Jenzabar" in the metatags, which Jenzabar insists violates its trademarks.

The documentary makers brought on Public Citizen lawyer Paul Alan Levy, who noted in a blog post the simple fact that even Google says it does not rely on metatags, and in response, Jenzabar tried to block his being brought into the case, by saying that Levy's pointing to the Google blog post was hearsay.

Now, the company has gone even further. It's found an "expert witness" who will claim that metatags do, in fact, influence Google results, even as the company itself insists they don't. The guy in question, Frank Farance, claims in his affidavit that "metatags are used by every Web search engine to determine search results and rankings." It's not clear how he has expertise in this particular realm or how he knows that Google uses metatags when pretty much everyone in the space has known for years it does not and Google itself has publicly denied using metatags to rank results.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:48am

    (it doesn't like to talk about its algorithm)

    Hmmm, wonder why Google doesn't like to talk about its algorithm? Is it because it considers that its IP and it wants to protect it since 100% of Google's value is based on its IP?

     

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

  2.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:52am

    Re:

    No.

     

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

  3.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    Re:

    And further, the most probable reason Google doesn't want to reveal its algorithm is because then SEO companies would better know how to fool it and artificially raise the rankings of their clients.

     

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

  4.  
    icon
    Spyder (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:54am

    Re:

    No, if it's algorithm was well known, it would be easy to manipulate any page to the top.

     

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

  5.  
    icon
    Jon Bane (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re:

    Ya. I use Google products solely because of their IP. It has nothing to do with their reputation or the quality of product they put out. Simply because they own their search algorithm. Nothing more.

    (In the event the tone of this comment is question, I will clarify and say that it is most definitely SARCASM.)

     

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

  6.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 7:58am

    Re:

    There's a bit of (read: a lot of) difference between IP and a trade secret. Google does not and cannot claim that other people aren't allowed to invent similar algorithms - even identical ones if they could figure out how. Which is exactly why it is important for Google's business to keep their methods secret.

    I am assuming you are trying to point hypocrisy fingers here, but it's not at all the same, and it's not about IP laws. Google is not broadcasting their algorithm as content and then saying "but no, it's still ours, you can't use it because of legal limitations" - they are keeping it a good ol' fashioned secret, which is the only "real" type of intellectual "property"

     

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  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:26am

    Re: Re:

    trade secrets are IP jackass. it is ownership of an idea and you can legally protect others from misappropriating it. once again, this is why the "establishment" (formal media, attorneys, engineers, etc) tend to stay out of blog comments. you guys make facts up all the time, and the "winner" tends to be whatever the blog's viewership agrees with. you sir, have no idea what you're talking about. parent AC does.

     

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  8.  
    icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Subpoena

    I'm too lazy to look it up, but didn't some company (Microsoft maybe?) get court-ordered recently to reveal some very proprietary source code based on very flimsy evidence/discovery request? Google needs to be really careful, sounds like this is heading towards an eventual demand to 'see' Google's search algorithm.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:31am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ad hominem + reading comprehension fail + straw man + more ad hominem + factual ignorance = you.

     

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  10.  
    icon
    Almost Anonymous (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    *Someone* certainly is a jackass. Intellectual Property (IP) is commonly regarded as "protected" by copyright/trademark/whatever, for which protection many "trade secrets" would not qualify. He is absolutely correct, there is a difference between IP and trade secrets.

    P.S. Ideas can't be owned, jackass.

     

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  11.  
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    JonMontgo (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:39am

    Re: Fail

    Okay, so google is forced to show its algorithm to the world (maybe the whole point of this lawsuit) and - assuming it can't be manipulated to skew search results - now there are a million google clones.

    Do you stop using Google?

    No, because it's familiar and well branded. Keeping the algorithm secret now only serves the purpose of protecting you, the consumer.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    another mike, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:40am

    yes, you do

    Anyone remember that scene from Roger Rabbit where Roger and the detective are arguing in the bar about whether Roger wants a drink?

    "No, I don't."
    "Yes, you do."
    "No, I don't."
    "No, you don't."
    "Yes, I do!"

    I keep thinking of that every time I hear this "we don't use metatags" "yes, you do" nonsense.

    P.S. I still put metatags on my pages, just in case Google or someone ever goes back to using them.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    TheStupidOne, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    Experiment Time

    Somebody with a server and a registered domain name hurry up and make some web pages. Have a simple article about a guy with a fake name that google doesn't return any results for. Then create some other pages that reference the fake guy in the metatags only. Wait for it be indexed by google and then see what the search results are like.

     

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  14.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:45am

    Re: Re: Fail

    "assuming it can't be manipulated to skew search results"

    Any particular reason why you're making that assumption? Or was that just a theoretical question?

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Simon, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    tech expert

    I love how Franks site is made with Frontpage using the standard 3-Frames template....

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Liam, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:01am

    Secrets!

    The main reason for not giving out the algorithm is simply because then anyone could game the system and the search results would become less and less relevant, making google unusable, destroying their main business.

     

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  17.  
    icon
    LumpyDog (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:04am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Troll = you

     

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

  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:05am

    Re: Re: Re:

    They are NOT the same thing.....one is a quasi-legal term the other is not.
    Case in point:
    My sister has a cookie shop, she calls here flag ship her 'secret recipe', which is a trade secret, because she wont tell anyone.

    Does she own this as IP? NO. Because my other sister, my aunts, and any female in my family know the recipe, and its from some ages old PD cook book. The public doesn't know that, so its still a trade secret, but not IP.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    New, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    How exactly is this a trademark violation

    I'm not understanding how this could even qualify as a trademark violation? How exactly is a string of characters as metadata violate a trademark? I will NEVER confuse that string "Jenzabar" in a tag I will never see with google or even an affiliation.


    Think google needs to make a blacklist for these company's that have an issue with this. Just don't display them at all. Or is that another trademark violation because that string of characters is in a filter?

    Sue the guy with money is getting old.

     

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

  20.  
    identicon
    NullOp, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:06am

    Definition

    Expert - anyone who knows one more fact than you do about a topic

     

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

  21.  
    icon
    sondun2001 (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    Re: Re:

    What would keep you using Google's reputable high quality products if other company's had access to its algorithm, or millions of website owners started fooling Google's search algorithm? It would no longer be so high quality, and reputable. So yes, that is the reason you use Google.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    trademark, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    meta tags - so what

    I do not see how meta tags, if used or not, have any relevance in this case. Maybe one of the ip lawyer types can explain it.

    How is the use of a trademarked name in a metatag any different than use of same in regular text, say an editorial, product review, blog, etc? Attempting to silence your critics is nothing new, and I thought that the use of trademark in editorial, product review, blog, etc has been well established in the (US) courts. This attempt to attack search indexing via metatag seems to be just another vector in the same failed attempt to silence your critics.

     

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  23.  
    icon
    william (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:18am

    Re:

    Hey AC, do you know what "Google bomb" is? If you don't, look it up on wiki.

    Now after you learned about google bombing, tell me if it's a good idea that the world know about how google's algorithm works and EVERY WEBSITE tries to google bomb itself.

    Now it's not that good of an idea for google to discuss their algorithm anymore isn't it?

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Not a Troll, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Actually, I thought the comment was spot on

     

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

  25.  
    icon
    LumpyDog (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:25am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    My clicking skills aren't up to the level of my commenting skills. My intent was to call out the trolling of the original anonymous coward who (successfully) attempted to hijack this thread into a discussion around Google's IP, which is only tangentially related to the merits of the lawsuit.

     

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

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 9:53am

    I've read bits off the affidavit, and what he's saying it true, if you realize what he's talking about.

    He says Google indexes and uses metatags. This is absolutely true. Google uses at the very least the description metatag (although not for ranking purposes it seems). What they don't use is the keyword metatag. And it doesn't appear that they ever used the keyword metatag. if you read through the affidavit, he never says they use the keywords metatag. He does use the word keyword, but it seems like more of a general use (i.e., how many times the search term shows up on the page).

     

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

  27.  
    identicon
    vagabondpenguin, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 10:03am

    Trade Secrets are covered by IP Law

    Trade secrets are covered by intellectual property law.
    The cookie shop analogy fails the first bullet point below in that it is reasonably ascertainable by others (assuming it is a published cookbook and not some collection of index cards your grandma kept).

    If it was the latter the question would then come down to if you made the proper efforts to keep it secret.


    Most states have adopted some form of the Uniform Trade Secret Act (UTSA). The UTSA sought to provide some consistency in trade secret law that, until recently, was protected only by state laws. The Act defines a trade secret as:

    "..information, including a formula, pattern,compilation, program, device, method, technique, or process that:

    (a) Derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable by proper means by, other persons who can obtain economic value from its disclosure or use; and

    (b) Is the subject of efforts that are reasonable under the circumstances to maintain its secrecy."

    When you have information that has economic value as a result of its secrecy and you use reasonable efforts to keep it secret, you have a trade secret. There is no registration of trade secrets.

    There is now also federal protection of trade secrets under 18 USC 1832 that defines and protects trade secret use, copying and theft in similar fashion to the UTSA.

     

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

  28.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re:

    There are legalities surrounding trade secrets too, I know, though I don't know all the details of them. And I'm sure you could make the argument that they do count as a type of intellectual property... but honestly I don't think that affects my point for those who wish to understand it - nonetheless, here is a revised first sentence:

    "There's a bit of (read: a lot of) difference between the type of IP generally criticized here on TechDirt and a trade secret"

     

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

  29.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 10:20am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Reading a bit on Wikipedia to confirm that my admittedly rudimentary understanding is correct, and I'm sorry friend, but there IS a big difference between trade secrets and more traditional IP like patents.

    Firstly, the reverse engineering of a trade secret by another party is totally legal - if someone works out the Coca Cola formula, they can start making it (except for all that other stuff to do with importing coca leaves but that is unrelated to this discussion)

    Secondly, "under most trade secret regimes, a trade secret is not deemed to exist unless its purported holder takes reasonable steps to maintain its secrecy." [wikipedia]

    Trade secret laws are about preventing industrial espionage and allowing for the enforcement of NDAs and NCAs. You are basically saying "we are keeping this a secret". With a patent, you are saying "this isn't a secret, but you still aren't allowed to use it"

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Re:

    If those other products weren't good but Google had the exact same IP, he wouldn't be there, so no, it's patently false that he's not using Google due to their IP. Plus, thats only one part of the IP anyway.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Censorship, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Re:

    Again, what do metatags have to do with trademark infringement ?
    Is Google marketing a similar product under the same name? I dont think so. There is no confusion for the potential customer here. This is a blatant attempt at silencing your critic.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Sea Lion, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 11:08am

    Re: Trade Secrets are covered by IP Law

    That's nice, but how is a trademark containing metatag infringement? It seems they are attempting to rewrite trademark law so that they can stop any criticism.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    AnonCoward 2, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 11:43am

    Jon Bane's sarcasm

    Yeah, uh, Mr. Bane. You're clearly an idiot. And there's no sarcasm at play here.

    With regard to Google, their "reputation and the quality of their product" are almost exclusive rooted in their IP. Unless you use Google products because of the clean aesthetic of the Google page, or your curiosity about the current Google Doodle.

     

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

  34.  
    identicon
    Grand_Marquis, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 12:58pm

    Reading flame wars on this site is so retarded. From what I've gathered, "Anonymous Coward" #3 is responding to "Anonymous Coward" #1 via a reply string started by "Anonymous Coward" #2, thus pissing off "Anonymous Coward" #2 instead of #1, meanwhile #4 jumped in to give an opinion, only to be attacked by #3, who I think he was agreeing with.

    Half the argument on this page was over who called who a jackass...because it's impossible to actually KNOW. There's gotta be a better way to do this.

     

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

  35.  
    identicon
    robin, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Jon Bane's sarcasm

    ...is perfectly well placed. you're clearly a lunatic anoncoward2, to wit:

    ideas, patents, copyrights...all great shit but useless without execution that serves a need out there in the marketplace somewhere. "ip" doesn't do that by itself. hence google's strength in their core product: search.

    @ mr. bane, :thumbsup:

     

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

  36.  
    identicon
    vyvyan, Nov 18th, 2009 @ 2:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Here goes my chance to say something I knew about trade secrets. Damn you looked up at wiki, but I can stress on one thing which you didn't.

    To get a patent, you have to spell it out to the world which is in contrast to any kind of secret, including trade secret.

     

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  37.  
    icon
    Sean T Henry (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 2:56pm

    Re: Subpoena

    Or they could create two identical webpages but one has meta tags included and the other does not. Then see what one gets ranked higher to start.

     

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

  38.  
    icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), Nov 18th, 2009 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    yes, that's important too. Basically, a trade secret is a real secret, whereas a patent is regulated to be an effective secret even though it is totally out in the open.

     

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

  39.  
    identicon
    suvie, May 13th, 2010 @ 11:34pm

    Again, what do metatags have to do with trademark infringement ?
    Is Google marketing a similar product under the same name? I dont think so. There is no confusion for the potential customer here. This is a blatant attempt at silencing your critic.

     

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


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