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.

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Comments on “A Lawsuit Over Trademarks In AdWords That Makes Sense”

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Avatar28 says:

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.

Danny (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: 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.

ASH says:

“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.

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:


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.

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