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Legal Issues

by Mike Masnick

Google Says Okay To Selling Trademarked Search Terms

from the good-for-them dept

Considering the fact that they've come out on the losing end of a number of cases on this subject, it's a bit surprising that Google is so aggressively changing their ad terms to say that they will no longer prevent advertisers from buying ads based on trademarked keywords. There have been a ton of cases on this, from France to wallpaper to eBay to Playboy. In fact, despite all of this, Google was also sued by someone else who felt it was illegal that they were illegally blocked from buying a trademarked keyword. While I think Google's position is the right one, the track record in court doesn't seem good. As we've said many, many times before, a trademark doesn't give you full control over a word or phrase. It's only designed to prevent confusion over the trademark. That is, if someone is presenting themselves as your company or your product, they have violated your trademark. However, to simply advertise themselves to anyone searching for your trademark - as long as it's clear that they're a different company - doesn't not violate the trademark. It's simply a good marketing strategy to position yourself where people are looking for that type of product. It's the same thing as making sure you're on the shelf in the store near your competitor. Thus, it seems as though Google's new rules fit with the spirit of trademark, but unfortunately too many people are misinterpreting trademark in a way to believe that it means you have total control over the trademarked word or phrase. No matter what, there are going to be a lot more lawsuits over this.

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  • identicon
    jburst, 13 Apr 2004 @ 12:50pm

    Supermarket analogy

    I can't understand what's different between what Google is doing and what supermarkets regularly do. At the supermarket checkout, they have these little coupon printers which spit out a coupon or two based on your purchases. Invariably, whenever I buy Tropicana orange juice, the coupon printer hands me a coupon for Minute Maid. There's obviously some database attached to these coupon printers with an entry for a Minute Maid coupon attached to the (trademarked) product name "Tropicana". Should Tropicana go and sue Coca-Cola (Minute Maid's owner) for infringement? Certainly not -- they'd be laughed out of court.

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

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