Court Says Keyword Advertising Isn't A Trademark Violation
from the good-answer dept
Every few months it seems like we have another lawsuit of this nature, and with different courts coming to totally different conclusions, it’s likely that this is going to continue for some time. It’s about whether or not it’s legal for a company to buy text ads in Google when someone does a search on their competitor’s name. As we’ve said repeatedly, there shouldn’t be a trademark violation here. Trademark law is supposed to prevent consumer confusion, such as having someone think they’re buying Coca-Cola, only to find out it’s really Bob’s Cola. Unfortunately, though, many companies seem to believe that trademark law means they have full ownership of their trademarked term, and no one else can use it for anything — especially if it’s a competitor. The courts have gone back and forth on this, with some of them seemingly confused by the real issues at stake. Eric Goldman has written an analysis of the latest such case, where it sounds like the court came to the right conclusions. They found that simply buying an ad based on a competitor’s keyword doesn’t constitute a trademark violation, as there’s not likely to be any customer confusion (however, if the ad itself is written with the trademarked term, that might be a different story). This is the right reasoning, and it’s good to see yet another court figure it out. There are still likely to be more suits along these lines, but the more reasonable decisions lawyers can point to, the better.