Is Google Liable For Typosquatting Domains That Use AdSense?

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

While I have tremendous respect for the ongoing work that Ben Edelman has done over the years exposing many of the dirty tricks used by spyware and adware vendors, I tend to disagree with his view on trademark law. In the past, Edelman sided with websites that sued early spyware vendors for putting up competing pop up ads, but that was missing the point. The real problem there was the fact that spyware was surreptitiously installed. If people wanted to see competitive ads, that should be their choice, and not a trademark issue. There's nothing wrong with competitors trying to get your attention if they know you're looking for a competitor's product. That's not a trademark law, so long as there's no attempt to confuse users into thinking that one product was made by someone else.

Edelman, however, disagrees. And, now, he's actually suing Google for allowing AdSense ads to be placed on "typosquatter" domains. This lawsuit seems like a longshot. As has been seen in numerous lawsuits over AdSense and trademarks, suing Google is trying to put liability on the wrong party. You could potentially sue the owner of the domain, but even that seems like a stretch. It's unlikely that anyone arriving at the typosquatted domain will be "confused" into believing they're at the correct site. They'll either quickly retype the URL properly, or they'll click on a link on the site that takes them to the proper site. There's no actual "confusion" here and it's difficult to see how there's any consumer harm. The fact that Google makes money off the practice shouldn't be seen as illegal at all.

Filed Under: ben edelman, lawsuits, trademark, typosquatting


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 Aug 2009 @ 10:16pm

    /usr/bin/whois
    /usr/bin/host

    Here's a quote from a news website last June:
    Meanwhile, Tim Berners-Lee, one of the major forces behind creating the
    World Wide Web, said on Friday that the names system had become "mired in
    politics and commercial games."

    "It would have been interesting to look at systems that didn't involve
    domains," Mr. Berners-Lee said.

    The point is that few seem to remember the system does not require domain names. They are like vanity phone numbers. They are not essential for the system to work. What is essential is the phone (or, in this case, IP) *number*.

    It is perplexing to see the enormous amounts of time, effort and financial capital devoted to research, argue and "remedy" a problem with vanity phone (IP) numbers. It's called "vanity" for a reason. Meanwhile, as with license plates or myriad other systems, the *number* is the only thing required for the system to work. Why are people presuming consumers will never understand how to look up a phone (IP) number? The simple and easy to use software to do this is included by default on every PC, whether Microsoft, Apple, Linux, BSD, etc.

    And now we are wasting the courts' time with this.

    I think we need education not litigation. The first step is learning to use the command line. It is not rocket science.

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