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, 18 Oct 2010 @ 3:07am

    i noticed edelman commented on another site that typosquatting is "illegal". this is coming from a harvard grad?

    the acpa is not criminal law.

    it is trademark law.

    frequently in online forums people incorrectly state that violating a license agreement is "illegal". now we are extending this hyperbole to trademark law?

    if you find domain names confusing, then use IP numbers.
    if you don't like ads, turn off javascript, use a text-only browser, keep your own DNS cache or use your hosts file. if someone is infringing your trademarks, then sue them. if you want to preempt typo names, register them (they only cost $7 each, much less than trademark fees). all easy to do.

    but if they're not your marks, then it's not your business. the world does not need one more class action lawsuit.

    the acpa gives _trademark holders_ a cause of action for infringement of their IP. it creates potential liability for an infringer. (absent zuccharini type outrageous behavior), it makes nothing "illegal".

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