American Airlines Cuts & Pastes Its Keyword Ad Lawsuit; Tries Again With Yahoo

from the search-and-replace dept

Last year, we were surprised to see American Airlines sue Google over the fact that competitors were buying keyword-based ads on American Airlines' trademarks. Plenty of similar lawsuits had been brought, but for the most part (in the US at least), search engines are on the right side of the law. First of all, simply buying keywords based on trademarks isn't considered a violation of the trademark. Trademark law doesn't give you total control over the mark, but it is designed to prevent confusing uses. Advertising against a competitor isn't a confusing use by itself, so long as it's clear that the advertiser is different from the trademark holder. Second, and more importantly, even if it was a violation of trademark, the liability should fall on the advertiser, not the search engine. Since the search engine is just a platform, the real claim should be against whoever created and paid for the advertisement.

Given that the search engines have come out on top in many such cases, we were surprised this past summer to see Google and American Airlines settle the case, while keeping the actual details secret. Initially, it appeared that Google had won the settlement, as it was still possible to find those competing ads. However, it's possible that the terms of the settlement hadn't taken effect yet, as a more recent search no longer finds those ads. Even more damning is the news that American Airlines has now basically done a copy & paste and search & replace on the original lawsuit and re-filed it against Yahoo. It even includes the same mistakes as the first lawsuit. As Eric Goldman notes, this is strange for a variety of reasons, including the fact that Yahoo is known to be much more friendly to trademark holders in such cases. However, this certainly suggests that Google may have caved in its settlement, rather than the other way around. If so, that would have been an unfortunate decision by Google, and Google's settlement may only lead to more trademark holders taking their chances on suing as well.

Filed Under: search ads, trademark
Companies: american airlines, google, yahoo


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    John Doe, 21 Oct 2008 @ 6:11pm

    Only the lawyers come out on top in cases like this.

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

  • icon
    crystalattice (profile), 21 Oct 2008 @ 7:38pm

    Is a lawsuit a first or last resort?

    Whenever I hear about these cases, I always wonder if the parties involved actually talked about the situation first, before the lawsuit was filed.

    I wonder how many of these lawsuits wouldn't even need to be filed if people just asked for the practice to stop.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2008 @ 10:21pm

    Google? Caving? Say it ain't so!

    Is there anyone they haven't caved into yet, from newspapers to the Chinese govt.?

    Google has become a whore, unable to keep their legs closed. They're the battered wife, completely incapable of standing up for themselves, desperately willing to pay off their tormentor with complacency (and dollars).

    I have no respect for them at all.

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

  • identicon
    Nathania, 22 Oct 2008 @ 7:08am

    Leave Yahoo alone

    If American Airlines wants more clicks, perhaps they should consider offering first rate service, low prices, and drop the extra baggage fee.

    Funny how having a good service or product can trump petty issues where you're in the wrong in the first place.

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

  • identicon
    PeterPatnter, 29 Jan 2009 @ 1:52am

    previous comments

    John Doe's comment ("only the lawyers come out ahead") is ignorant and false prattle, not useful to anyone.

    Crystalattice has the candor and decency to use the word "wonder". The answer is that in high-stakes fields it will not usually get us very far to write a letter -- but it's a good way to start off on a civilized footing, and in some cases will produce a favorable result.

    Anonymous Coward has good reason to want anonymity. He or she understands how to be vulgar but not how to present substantiated facts. Tch!

    Nathania has some good points, in an abstract sense -- but is in the wrong forum. This is about trademarks, not legitimate complaints against the company.

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


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Techdirt Gear
Show Now: Takedown
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Recent Stories
Advertisement
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads

Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.