Misunderstanding Trademarks: American Blinds Suit Against Google Moves Forward

from the not-this-again dept

It seems that this issue isn’t going to die any time soon. While one court has said that Google didn’t do anything wrong to Geico in allowing companies to sell ads based on the keyword Geico (something that Geico is still fighting), another one has denied Google’s request to dismiss an almost identical case from American Blinds. There are two issues here, and both of them should end up in Google’s favor. First, this is simply not a violation of trademark. The purpose of trademark law is not that you have total control over your trademark — just that others cannot use it in a way that confuses people into believing that they are you or acting on your behalf. Throwing up ads based on keywords is a situation where people know that these are competitive ads. It’s like saying that Coke could never use the word Pepsi in one of their ads. Second, even if these ads did violate trademark law, it would not be Google’s fault. Google did not place the ad. It would be the fault of the person or company that placed the ad. On both fronts, Google should have a very strong claim against American Blinds, but apparently it wasn’t enough for a summary judgment. As John Battelle points out, if the court eventually does decide to misunderstand the purpose of trademark law (a la the French), this could end up at the Supreme Court to settle the differences in lower court rulings. Of course, the question now is whether or not Dave Pell will be buying Google ads on the phrase “American Blinds.”

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