Judge Finds Confusion Over Geico Ads, Punts On The Real Liability Question

from the missing-the-point dept

In the ongoing saga of Geico vs. Google, it appears that a District Court judge has sided with Geico in determining that certain ads may be confusing to consumers, and therefore establish trademark violations. This case has a lot of moving parts, so it’s easy to be a bit confused over what’s really being discussed — in fact, it’s so easy that not even the two sides agree on what’s really being argued. However, the first issue is whether or not text ads on Google that use Geico’s name are a violation of Geico’s trademark. That seems questionable in a generalized form, as plenty of companies have ads that mention their competitors by name. However, if the specific ads are done in a way that could confuse people, then it’s a trademark violation — and the judge seems to believe that’s the case here. Hopefully, the ruling will make it clear that this does not apply to any ad on the keyword Geico, but just ads that are shown to be potentially confusing. Still, the more important point is whether or not Google should be liable for the damages. After all, it isn’t Google that wrote the infringing ad. That’s the important part of this case — and on that point, the judge has punted. Instead of deciding that issue, she said that there was trademark violation and told Geico and Google to try to settle the case before she decides if Google is even liable. That seems ridiculous. Google shouldn’t have any responsibility at all. It should be the company that created the infringing ad, and it seems silly that Google should have to waste resources settling a legal case that it shouldn’t be a part of.

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Comments on “Judge Finds Confusion Over Geico Ads, Punts On The Real Liability Question”

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responsibility says:

Re: Re: No Subject Given

Not really an appropriate analogy.

A better analogy would be running an infringing ad in a magazine. The magazine would be held liable. As would a newspaper.

Sounds like someone is showing his bias. Maybe those commission checks for your google ads are clouding your judgement.

responsibility says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No Subject Given

Google can and does approve ads. Just because they [may] do it [exclusively] in software doesnt mean it doesnt happen and doesnt mean it doesnt count.

And just because you think the liability “should go to the company creating the ad” or to the little green dog across the street doesnt make the distributer any less liable for their actions.

The newspaper AND the magazine ARE liable even if you think they shouldnt be. Just as google should be. They are the ones disseminating the ad across the web.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 No Subject Given

Sorry. You’re not doing a very good job convincing me. No one said anything about “a little green dog across the street” and exaggerating the claim to absurd levels does little to prove your argument other than making it seem like you’re stretching.

The courts have shown in the past that if you’re a service provider, you are not responsible for the content others put into your service. This is the same thing.

nonuser says:

the rest of the story

Google’s top litigator beelined out of the courtroom to the executive offices. “I’ve got some great news”, he said breathlessly. “The judge ruled that our ads definitely infringe their trademarks.”
(several seconds of stunned silence)
Brin: “But I thought you said you had great news.”
Lawyer: “I do! I got to talking with the GEICO guys after the hearing. Turns out I’m going to save a ton of money on my auto insurance.”

Spencer Harden (user link) says:

Settlement Mystery Answered

Opinion on Google v GEICO

Should Google have settled so easily?

Before I answer that question I must address another.

What was the settlement between Google and GEICO anyway?

Both claim they won, but because the deal was made privately, no one will know exactly.

However, here?s a clue.

Type in GEICO in the Google search below and see what advertiser pops up in the first position.

When you see GEICO coming up in the top paid advertising position on Google, the search engine that it just sued, you have got to say (as Arsenio Hall used to say), hmmm?

Sounds like a win/win to me. GEICO gets free advertising. Google doesn?t pay a cent.

However, what isthe real price here?

The real price is that Google may have just compromised in such a way as to jeopardize relevant search engines forever.

If GEICO gets free ad placement on Google for holding Google liable for other company?s trademark deceptions, Google andYahoo andMSN and every other relevant search engine must give any company free ad placement or special treatment when third-parties are the culprit, or in other words, if taken to the extreme they cannot make any money as long as courts suggest anyone can sue them instead of the third-party violators who should be held responsible. In fact, it behooves GEICO to encourage rather than discourage third-parties to violate their trademark with deceptive practices because then they don?t have to pay top dollar to get the top spot.

I think I may have just found a great way to make money. Create a company with a great brand name. Tell other companies to pretend they are my company with a wink and a nod that I will sue Google instead of them, and voila! Free advertising on Google.

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