Legal Issues

by Joseph Weisenthal

geico, google

Once Again, Google Sued Over Use Of Trademarks In Ads

from the geico-2.0 dept

Reader Mark alerts us that once again, Google is getting sued because it allow companies to buy ads that use another company's trademark. In the US, it's pretty much settled law that there's nothing wrong with this. Geico tried suing the company over this, but it had its case slapped down by the courts. This time, it's the Australian government upset that a popular Australian classifieds site is using the name of certain car dealerships in its ads. Of course, the Geico case doesn't set any precedent for Google in Australia, so it's possible that the law won't be as favorable to the company down under. The government is also making the somewhat bizarre claim that Google doesn't do a good job distinguishing its paid results from its organic listings. It's pretty hard to see how anyone but a moron in a hurry would have a hard time seeing the difference, so it would certainly seem that Australia has an uphill battle going forward on this one.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    Matt Bennett, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 12:41pm

    Moreover, who even says they have to make it easy to distinguish paid listings from the natural ones? Some search sites purposely make it impossible/very hard to tell. Google makes it easy, but that's just a customer respect issue.

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

  2. identicon
    Nicholas, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 1:34pm

    Also, who says that it's Google's responsibility to monitor/police that information? Ugh. This is just like suing YouTube for their USERS uploading illegal content. Nicholas' Blog

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 1:59pm

    For shame Nicholas, that's been covered here too. Try submitting the story to news sites to generate blog traffic!

    Random mostly sarcastic comment (the 2 lines above) aside, people need to stop suing over the littlest things.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Sloth, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 2:17pm


    It's also a matter of delivering what they say they do. Google is the most popular search engine on the web because they have this advanced algorithm blah blah blah... inserting sponsored link into the ads would compromise the algorithm's results and thus the service they deliver.

    Personally, I think they do a pretty good job, but I wish they'd confine sponsored links to the sidebar instead of placing them above search results as well. Not because they're difficult to distinguish, but because screen real estate is valuable: with the current layout I can only see the top three or four results before I have to scroll down.

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

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 2:31pm

    I don't get it. I thought Google was an American-based company. AND just because its presence is on the Internet doesn't me that any country that can connect to the Internet and use Google automatically has "legal" rights over them. Why is this even an issue?

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

  6. identicon
    Shalkar, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 7:06pm

    My Opinion is:

    You would think since it's based in America that the only way another country could sue a website, like Google, is if they had offices there. I mean, the only thing I can think of is because it offers a "service" to people in that country. Thus, because they're doing business there that means they have to go by their laws also.

    As for this lawsuit, it's garbage. I mean, how is Google responsible for what another company and/or website does? Furthermore, wouldn't that mean FREE ads for that car dealership? Seriously now...

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

  7. identicon
    Tony, Jul 13th, 2007 @ 9:32pm

    Firstly Australia has vastly different laws to America. Also Google is an Australian company
    ACN 002 780 289
    ABN 42 002 780 289

    So the ACCC is charging the Australian arm of the corporation. Secondly they are being charged under Section 52 of the trades practices act which states "A corporation shall not, in trade or commerce, engage in conduct that is misleading or deceptive or is likely to mislead or deceive." which basically means the corporation cannot allow any other person/company to use them as a vehicle for deception/misleading practices. Google allowed the publisher to publish the adverts.

    People are saying its a nothing charge and in America it probably isn't but the ACCC isn't a toothless tiger and normally they win there cases.

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

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 14th, 2007 @ 9:33am

    Right on!

    Google is making money by allowing abuse of trademarks. They know its a problem. If you try to use some well known trademarks in AdWords, its rejected. After doing this, it seems wrong that they can claim that their business isnt for the purpose of using competitive trademarks - this is practically an admission.

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

  9. identicon
    did you look?, Jul 15th, 2007 @ 1:40pm

    Re: My Opinion is:

    google "google office locations", and click on the second result.

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

  10. icon
    TechNoFear (profile), Jul 16th, 2007 @ 12:21am

    ACCC is going after TradingPost mainly

    The ACCC is after the 'Trading Post' for using registered trademarks in the key word search adverts.

    Google allowed the 'Trading Post' to buy key-word adverts using 'Kloster Ford'. 'Ford' is generic and acceptable, the trademarked 'Kloster Ford' is not acceptable.

    An example is; searching Google for 'pepsi cola' and the top link saying 'pepsi' but when you click the link you end up at ''.

    This is similar to the 2002 recommendations by the FTC.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2007 @ 5:19am

    Re: Right on!

    The issue with trademarks is that they're only protected in their respective markets. For example, Office is trademarked by Microsoft in the appropriate markets. However, that doesn't stop the franchise bar called "The Office" from having that name.

    So you can't block all trademarked words. "Office" is trademarked. You want to block that from AdWords? I'm sure office supply warehouses would have issue with that.

    Remember, trademarks are different then patents and what not. Just cause something is trademarked doesn't mean someone else can freely use it.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2007 @ 5:21am

    Re: Re:

    dude, either i have a really big screen or you have a really small monitor. i can see 10 search results PLUS the one to two results the put at the top (i may have seen as much as three at the top, not sure, but the average seems to be two, though sometimes even as low as one).

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

  13. identicon
    Vincent, Jul 16th, 2007 @ 5:45am

    it's a question of deception

    It seems like a straight forward deception - you ask for a business name and Google returns two competitors to that business with text that makes you think those are the right links. Labeling these links as "Sponsored Links" doesn't repair the damage of the link text and description being deceptive. This is a very large Australian company with a huge advertising budget picking off traffic from much smaller competitors. The same trick was pulled by another large company as outlined in the Australian Newsagency blog. Google should lose this case.

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2007 @ 1:41pm

    Re: it's a question of deception

    But why blame Google? Seems to me it is the fault of that "very large Australian company".

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

  15. identicon
    keith jones, Feb 7th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Google are mafia baby killers:

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

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