Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Yet Another Lawsuit Over Trademarked Ad Words

from the let's-get-this-settled-already dept

Well, that didn't take long. Less than a week after AOL paid up to settle the lawsuit they were dealing with over selling trademarked words and phrases as search keywords, a company is suing Google, AOL and other Google partners for basically the same thing. In this case, American Blind and Wallpaper Factory told Google to stop selling keywords based on their trademarks. Google told them they would stop selling on things like "American Blind Factory" and "DecorateToday," but saw no reason to stop on such generic terms as "American wallpaper" and "American blind." In fact, Google went so far as to ask a judge to say this was perfectly fine. In response, American Blind is suing them. Let's try this once again: the point of trademark is to make sure no one is misled. That's not what happens at all when someone is buying keywords on your trademark. Trademarks don't give you a monopoly over the word or phrase - they just let you stop people from confusing customers into think they're you, or that you endorse them somehow. However, ads are clearly ads, and targeting them at people who might be interested in your offering (so long as they don't misrepresent themselves) is a perfectly justifiable thing to do. It's the same thing as getting shelf-placement near other, similar products.

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  • identicon
    Ed Halley, 29 Jan 2004 @ 6:31am

    No Subject Given

    In other news, SupaCola can no longer ask grocers to be stocked "right next to Coca-Cola."

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

    • identicon
      Hanzie, 29 Jan 2004 @ 7:12am

      Re: No Subject Given

      That makes sense. As Mike pointed out, the whole point of having a trademark is being able to distinguish your specific product or service from that of a competitor. If a competitor constantly has his products set up right next to yours, he is intentionally creating an association that's simply not there. As a consequence, the distinctive capacity of your brand decreases (much like use in everyday language does: no one really considers it to be a brand anymore).

      Guess that's where the whole advertising thing comes from, too. If everyone looking for Mike Cola is pointed to the website for Hanzie Cola first, then one could claim that this decreases the distinctive capacity of the Mike Cola brand. So to speak. :-)

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

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